Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sepia Saturday: To 'stache or not to 'stache, that is the question!

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.

Copyright©irisheyesjg2013.
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12 comments:

  1. Very handsome family members, if I may say, and I love the shaky shakespeare! That first guy was very hairy.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comments Pat. Andrew J. was 'very hairy' indeed, but from the looks of it had quite a receding hairline. I have an image of him when he was in his 80s and he still had the beard, but it was trimmed back quite significantly.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  2. That first photo sure is a bushy beard / mo - how on earth did he get food in his mouth?!

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    1. Thanks for your comments Jackie. It must have taken a lot of effort to eat neatly, since his mouth is so hidden away. I would have liked a seat at his dinner table.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  3. In the family portrait of males (with matriarch), there's an interesting hairstyle in the back row, second left -- what's with THAT, anyway? (Is it really poufs of hair, or is it something on the wall behind him that gives that unfortunate look?) Whatever, that's quite a family, isn't it?

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    1. Thanks for your comments Deb. Ah yes, the dandified Edwardian! That is indeed his hair, a rather rebellious form of self-expression in a repressive society, and most often associated with those in the creative community — artists, writers and so forth. I wonder what his parents thought of it. My mom said that her mom and all of her mother's siblings had masses of hair, but clearly the other men kept theirs well tamed.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  4. Like Deb, I couldn't help noticing that hairdo. Thanks for following up with an explanation.

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome! Thanks for your comment Wendy.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  5. Omigosh, I had the same question as Deb - was it something on the wall, or truly his hair? I also thought it interesting that he appeared to have his hands in his pockets, contrasted with the typical pose of his brothers. As a non-conformist myself, I think perhaps this relative of yours was someone who would have been interesting to know...

    Great post. I love your photos.

    Dee

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    1. Thanks for your comments Dee! I also think he would have been interesting to know. My grandmother's brothers were quite an interesting group. It seems they were very much encouraged to follow their passions, unusual for the time. For example, the young man in the front row, far left, became a professional jockey, and had a very successful career.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  6. I suspect you're right that facial hair was more prevalent a century or more ago, despite the fact I live with "an hairy man" of this sort. You have such wonderful photos of the mustachioed men of your family.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Pauleen! It seems our hairiest kinfolk are from way back when, although my brother had a very bushy moustache for years. It's lovely to have these images, and I agree they are wonderful.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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