To 'stache or not to 'stache — that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
the itch and tickle of the moustache
Or to grow full a beard 'gainst a chin of troubles
And by shaving them end. To shave, to have —
No more — the hair upon his chin.
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That facial hair is heir to.
With sincere apologies to William Shakespeare for my cheeky rendering of Hamlet's most famous soliloquy, on this Sepia Saturday I thank Alan and company for inspiring contemplation of the moustache — and all facial hair in general. I thoroughly enjoyed perusing my old photographs to find the moustachioed and bearded (male) members of my family down through time.
As I looked through the old images, I was struck by the fact that — on both sides of my family tree — the presence of any sort of facial hair is largely an occurrence of the 19th and early 20th century variety, with the exception of a couple of men whose moustachioed mugs carried them through the 70s and 80s.
On my mother's side of the family tree, facial hair is abundant in the Kettle line. My great-great granduncle, Andrew J. Kettle, had a full face of hair. In this image, — taken in 1878, when he was 45 years old — his bewhiskered visage is quite a sight to behold; however, it was not unique among his contemporaries. It was the style of the day as a marker of masculinity. In some traditions, facial hair also signified social class, as well as social maturity, with men only growing facial hair after they were married.
While I don't have any family photographs of Andrew J.'s son, Laurence J. Kettle, there is this presentation portrait. Painted by Sean Keating, it is held in the collections of the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. My mother recalled that 'Larrie' always had a beard and moustache, which made him look very intimidating. Despite his stern countenance, he was friendly enough — although not in any way effusive —so the children looked forward to his visits. Each time Larrie came to have tea with Aunt Alice and my grandfather Patrick, he usually brought a wonderful present with him. Among the favourites were marzipan sweets from France, boxes of gorgeous chocolate from Belgium, and precious rosary beads from Rome.
Although you cannot see it very clearly, in this family portrait of the males and the matriarch, my maternal great-grandfather Thomas Fitzpatrick —front row, second from left — had a moustache and beard. My mother recollected it as being pure white, just like his hair, but with a sliver of black in the very centre. Mom remembered her grandfather as having a shy but lovely smile, with his white moustache curling away from his lips whenever he spoke to her. As you can see from the portrait, all of the Fitzpatrick sons are clean-shaven.
On my father's side of the family, images of men with facial hair are notably absent, with the exception of my great-grandfather Patrick Geraghty. According to my father's recollections, his grandfather Patrick had a very thick crumb catcher which he kept impeccably groomed. Patrick Geraghty was a very ambitious and savvy businessman — some might even say ruthless — and his moustache seems to fit the bill. I have always been struck by the fact that when first he migrated from County Mayo down to Dublin City, he was a casual labourer, but within less than ten years he was the sole owner of a highly successful car proprietorship, and his family was living in one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in Dublin. Hmm? Perhaps that killer moustache had something to do with it.
Be sure to stop by the Sepia Saturday blog to connect with others inspired by the theme photograph, and perhaps you will be inspired too.
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