Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday's Child: 'We had another brother, didn't we?'

This is the photograph, the only one, with my mother's older brothers, Anthony, Gerard, and Patrick, and her parents, a photograph taken years before my mom was born. On my grandmother Mary Fitzpatrick Ball's knee is seated a tiny fragile looking baby, his eyes almost shut, my grandmother's hands enveloped around him. My mom could identify all of the children in the photograph, save one, this tiny baby seated on her mother's knee. Mom knew it could not be her baby brother John, but she could not name the child.

Sometime in the years after her mother died, my mother found and kept this photograph tucked away in her own little drawer in the cupboard which held her clothes and those of her sisters. Every once in a while, after her chores were finished, and she could take a couple of private minutes, she would take out the portrait from the place which kept it safe from prying eyes. Mom would take it out and stare at it. Sometimes she would kneel at the side of her bed to say prayers with the photograph propped against a soft blanket, so it wouldn't get damaged. She would gaze into her mother's face, and she would pray. Mom said she wasn't sure why she would do this, but perhaps it was the only way she could be sure of never forgetting her mother's face.

When my parents emigrated from Ireland to Canada, the portrait travelled with my mom. Whenever there was any discussion of the photograph, one of my mother's sisters would say that she was the small baby pictured, but inexplicably my mom always disagreed. In 1994, at a cousin's wedding in Dublin, all of the siblings were seated around one large table at the reception. It had been a very long time since all seven of them were together in the same room. Over dinner they spent a lot of time talking about their childhood with their dad, and Aunt Alice. My mom finally asked her older brothers the question she had long wished to ask, "We had another brother, didn't we?". Mom mentioned the photograph and the baby their mother was holding, and she asked her elder brothers if they knew who the child was. Anthony, Gerard, and Patrick instantly knew the photograph to which Mom was referring. They explained that the baby's name was Thomas, and said he had died when he was young baby. Beyond that they shared little of their recollections of him. There were several guesses at the date of the photograph, but no one knew for certain when it had been taken.

Based on the apparent ages of the boys in the photograph, and the clothing my grandparents are wearing, I surmised that it had been taken in the late 1920s. With the image of that tiny little boy locked in my brain, I searched for a late 1920s record of Thomas's birth in the General Register Office in Dublin, and discovered Thomas was born 27 October 1927. 

Knowing he had died very young, I limited my search parameters and found his record of death within the books of the very next year. Baby Thomas Christopher Ball died in St. Ultan's hospital on 18 September 1928. The registrar's notation of the fraction of 10 3/4 over 12 for Thomas's age emphasizes the fact that Thomas almost made it to eleven months of age, but did not live for even one whole year. For the last 23 days of his life Thomas was very sick; he died of Chronic Enteritis and Cardiac failure. Thomas is interred in the St. Paul's section of Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.

Now, when I look at the photograph, I wonder, as she held her tiny son on her knee that day, did my grandmother in any way sense that Thomas would not be with their family for very long?

(see: Anointed with tears: One man's recollection of the long ago loss of a brother)

Copyright©J.Geraghty-Gorman 2011.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Happy Thanksgiving To All in the United States!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our friends and family in the United States!

Unfortunately, this year I'll be enjoying the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade while under a blanket on the sofa in my den, next to a large box of kleenex (Achoo), rather than out in the crisp and cool air of Manhattan.   We have great memories of Thanksgiving Day parades of the past, and I thought I'd share a few of those today.

May you and all of your loved ones enjoy the very best of this day!

The skating rink in Bryant Park pre-parade
A Christmas tree near the rink; the Bryant Park Hotel is the beautiful building on the right.
Now that's a candy cane.
Guess who: hey my spidey sense is tingling
It's not easy being green...
 ...especially when you're 78 feet long, 36 feet wide, and filled with a volume of 11,000 cubic feet of helium
A BIG Apple in The Big Apple
We believe Santa, we believe!
*Click on photos to view larger version.
All Photographs ©Copyright J.Geraghty-Gorman 2011.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday, almost: Wild about Wilde

“I have nothing to declare except my genius.” — Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde is my favourite 19th century dramatist and wit, and since I'm wild about Wilde (sorry about that one), here are some pics of his Dublin family home, and the 'statue' erected to him which stands in Merrion Square.  There are two obelisks directly across the path from 'him' which are covered with witticisms famously attributed to Wilde, some of which I've included in the body of this post.  Enjoy!

1 Merrion Square, home of the Wildes from 1855 until 1878.  Now the Irish American University.
“There is no sin except stupidity.”

“I always pass on good advice.  It is the only thing to do with it.  It is never any use to oneself.”

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

“Who, being loved, is poor?”

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Visit: 'Over thy dead body': to view the Wilde 'Family' Tomb in Mount Jerome Cemetery Dublin.
*Click on photographs to view larger version.
All photographs Copyright©J.Geraghty-Gorman 2011.

Monday, November 14, 2011

In the shadow of Croagh Patrick: Seeking 'Geraghty'

Both shadow and light change as you climb inside and around the ruins of the Murrisk Abbey, change which you can feel within, as you seek the signs of a long ago past.  It was here that I came to find some of my Geraghtys, not to mention O'Malleys and Tooles. The locals say, "everyone knows" all the Geraghtys of Lecanvey are buried in the Abbey cemetery, and as I walk through the grounds their claim bears out.  The evolution of the surname is right there before me, Geraty, Garaghty, Geraghty.

All that remains, other than the cemetery, are parts of the small chapter house and the church of the Augustinian Friars, buildings which have stood on this site in Murrisk since the 15th century.  Founded by Hugh O'Malley in 1457, the Abbey was dedicated to St. Patrick.

The quiet of this place is unyielding.  The tread of footsteps sounds intrusively loud as you walk down the dusty old road which leads to the site on the very edge of Clew Bay.  The dewy grass in the old cemetery sighs, and individual bits of gravel shift and settle as you walk among the stones of those interred inside the church.  The mist comes in off Clew Bay, and the dampness seeps into your bones.

The shadows of the past are all here.  Some are under stones which no longer bear even the slightest mark of the stonecutter's blade, and others lie in places well tended and long remembered.  The surface of the ground undulates, rising and falling, imprinting the spaces where some lie with barely a mark at all.

My great-grandfather Patrick Geraghty and his wife Margaret Toole left behind life in Lecanvey (Le-CAN-vee), County Mayo, sometime after the birth of their eldest son Thomas, on 20 April 1886, and sometime before the Dublin City birth of their daughter Mary in 1888.  They made their way to the heart of Dublin City, leaving behind family and friends, heading to a completely different life from the one they had known as the children of farmers.

Steep narrow stairs lead to the upper floor
The upper floor
The altar room of the Chapter House
The old cemetery and the 'new' divided by a stone wall.
Click on photographs to view larger version.
All Photographs Copyright©J.Geraghty-Gorman 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrance Day: Today I remember for a friend who cannot

I have a friend, John, a friend with Alzheimer's, and today 'Lest We Forget' has special meaning for me, because I am remembering for my friend who cannot.

John has been a friend of my family for a very long time.  I first met him, through his daughter, when I was a teenager going to a new school in grade 13.  On the way to school, on the very first day, I noticed his daughter and I were walking in the same direction, down the same streets.  After a while we stopped and asked each other if we were headed to the same school.  His daughter had a familiar lilt in her voice, and on the way to school I learned that her family were recent emigrants from County Down, Ireland.  Later that day, on the walk home, John's daughter introduced me to her dad.  From that day we were friends.

Many years passed and, as sometimes happens, people lose touch.  Both John's daughter and I moved far away from our family homes, and from each other, but John and his wife Jean stayed close to my parents.  One year John's wife passed away; a couple of years later my own father died.  A friendship grew between John and my mom, a friendship my brother and I were very happy about.  John and Mom came to rely upon one another; they are best friends.  John and Mom happily share stories with one another about their spouses, about their lives in Ireland, about their world travels.  I love to talk to John about his family, and his life in Ireland and around the world.

John served in the British Merchant Marine, supplying military bases and ships around the Mediterranean, and not quite fulfilling his wish to 'see the world' before he settled down.  My mom always reminds him how lucky he was that Jean, the love of his life, was still waiting for him when he finally returned to Ireland.  John has a great sense of humour, and a very relaxed way about him, that makes him so easy to talk to. Talking to John is in some ways a little like having a dad once again.


My friend John has Alzheimer's disease, and so there are times when he no longer knows who I am.

Sometimes he thinks I'm a neighbour who lives in his village in County Down, and he asks me if my husband and I are going to go dancing on Saturday night.  I always answer yes, because if I could travel back in time with my friend John, that is exactly what we would do.

Occasionally he'll say he needs to get ready to leave the house, to take the train into Belfast for a football match.  I ask him if instead he'll stay awhile and tell me more about his brothers, and to my relief he does.  I don't want him to open the door and discover that Belfast, and the football match, are a million miles away from here.

All of John's siblings are dead; all taken by Alzheimer's disease.  It is a truth too cruel to contemplate.  Although they are all gone, they live in that part of John's memory which is still very much alive, and he tells me about them.  It is as though we could walk down through the village at any moment and meet them.

My mom tells me that each time I visit with John, after I leave, he comments that I am 'a nice lady', and then more often than not, he asks her who I am.

During World War Two, John lost friends on the battlefields of Europe, young men who left the village, never to return. Today, on this Remembrance Day, I am remembering them for my friend John.

Copyright©J.Geraghty-Gorman 2011.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday, almost: As mom always said, 'Don't run on the ruins'

Within this week of Remembrance, I thought I'd go for a little levity today with a couple of signs I've come across in Dublin that remind me just how ancient a place it is.  I hope they bring a smile to your face.

Note the Chapter House dates 1163 to 1537 A.D.
To put it in perspective, the Choir School was founded 60 years before Columbus set sail for the Americas.

Click on photos to view larger version.
All Photographs Copyright©J.Geraghty-Gorman 2011.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday, almost: A little more London

On this almost Wordless Wednesday, a little more London.  Directly across the road from the Palace of Westminster stands Westminster Abbey.   Those who are fans of Wills and Kate, sorry that's Prince William and Princess Catherine, will recognize the Abbey as the site of their wedding in April 2011.  Unfortunately photography is strictly forbidden in the interior of the abbey, still the outside is certainly something to behold.

An abbey has stood on this site since the year 960.  There are over 3300 people interred within the walls of the abbey, including kings and queens, the famous and the infamous.  It is a most extraordinary sight. You must step lightly, because in any given space you may be walking on the grave of a poet or a patriot.  I discovered the grave of my favourite 17th century poet, Aphra Behn, in the hallway floor of the Cloisters.   Many people tread upon it without even noticing.
Mrs. Aphra Behn
Dyed April 16
A.D. 1689
'Here lies a Proof that Wit can never be
Defence enough against Mortality'.
In addition to being a tourist sight, with a £16 GBP ($25 USD) entrance fee, the abbey is a living church with services often going on as the tourists wander through it.  Please visit their official website for more information, and to have a look inside.

The Abbey from the perspective of the Palace of Westminister
The Main Entrance together with grounds filled with tourists
St. Margaret's Church on the left, better known as the church of the House of Commons.
The Cloisters - green space within the heart of the Abbey grounds.
An important remembrance on the grounds near the west door of the Abbey.
An invocation for all, on the wall near the west door.

Click on photographs to view a larger version.
All Photographs Copyright©J.Geraghty-Gorman 2011.
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