Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sepia Saturday #212: 'Skis + Horses = Skijoring'

Although we have ancestors and relatives who travelled to northern Europe on holiday, and one who worked in Switzerland, I do not know if they ever spent time on skis. Also, despite the fact that both my brother and I have skied from the time we were teenagers, when I searched through my collection of photographs, I was able to find only one photo relevant to the theme; it features my brother on skis. My collection does include a number of photos of people on horses, of both the real and the hobby variety, and as I was ruminating over the images, I began to think about that sport in which we see horses and skiers together, namely Skijoring.

Skijoring originated in northern Europe in the late 19th century and involves skiers — either on a course or cross country — being towed by horses or dogs. Later on, in some places, motorized vehicles were used. In the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, skijoring with horses was even a demonstration sport. 

So...for my contribution to today's Sepia Saturday, here is a mix of images, including people on horses, a skier, and horses and skiers together skijoring. I hope they bring a smile to your face.

Horseback riding through The Gap of Dunloe, County Kerry, Ireland:
left to right: my brother Michael and our mom Mary in the pony-drawn 'trap',
me on 'Tom', our dad Michael on 'Maudie'.
Now, if I could somehow animate the hobby horse on which my paternal grandaunt Mollie is seated,
and have her dismount of course,
then create tow lines from the horse to my brother Michael, and connect the images through time,
then we might have a family photo of skijoring.

On the Flickr page of Nationaal Archief — The National Archives of the Netherlands — is this wonderful photo, taken in 1930, of a skijoring race. (If you click on it, you can view the other photos in their collection.) Skijoring looks like great fun, although probably somewhat dangerous.

Are there any skijoring types on your family tree?

Click on photos to view larger versions.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

’On a celtic cross, a young man in a photograph': World War One

As the first world war began how many families proudly affixed to the parlour wall a portrait of their fine young man in his uniform? How many of those portraits were rimmed in black crepe by the war's end in 1918, as a picture which was once a point of pride became an icon of mourning?

On this blog I have shared the stories of the young men in our family (Dunne, Pell, Kettle) who were killed during the First World War, and I hope you will take the time to revisit those stories. In my photographic archive, I have photographs of only two of the young men lost to my family, William Dunne and Thomas Michael Kettle, and I dearly wish I had a picture of William Pell. Such images secure our connection to their past and serve as emblems which prompt remembrance.

This blog post is about another young man in an image, a young man to whom I am not related, who also gave his life on a battlefield in Europe so very long ago.

Francis Lyons
Many of us who wander through graveyards, searching for the graves of family members who died long ago, sometimes find ourselves drawn to the grave of someone to whom we have no connection. Perhaps there is something about a carved detail on the stone, or maybe it is one line in the inscription, which makes us want to know more about those in whose memory the marker was erected.

On an unseasonably warm January day, I was at Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin searching for the unmarked grave of one of my maternal great-grandmother's sisters, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a photograph affixed to a simple celtic cross, and I felt drawn to look at it. It turned out to be a very old image of a young man in uniform. I felt compelled to learn more about the tender looking soldier gazing out of that image. The inscription on the stone provided many details which helped to guide me in finding out more about him and his family.

The stone reads,

In / Loving Memory / of / Elizabeth Lyons / 27 High St. / Beloved Wife Of / John Lyons / Died 1st April 1897 / Aged 32 years / Her daughter / Elizabeth M / Died 18th July 1897 / Aged 3 years / and her son / Sergeant Francis Lyons / No. 6626 1st Batt. R.D.F. / Killed in Action France / 21st March 1918 / Her Sister / Julia Byrne / Died 27th Aug. 1926 / R.I.P. / Sacred Heart of Jesus / Have Mercy On Their Souls.

The image that drew me to this grave is of the Lyons' son Francis. As the stone reveals, Francis was a soldier in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The addition of his service number 6626 made it easier to find his First World War record of service.

Francis Lyons was a Sergeant in 'Y' Company, First Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers. As the grave stone attests, he was killed 21 March 1918. Francis was killed at the very beginning of a period of battle which took place between March and August of 1918. During this time of less than five months, the Allied Fourth and Fifth Armies were driven back across the Somme battlefields; thousands of soldiers perished, and Francis Lyons was among their number. His body was never recovered and so he has no known grave; however he is memorialized on the Pozieres Memorial in Amiens, France.

Further research on Francis Lyons's family led me to think that perhaps there are no longer any family members left to remember Francis, so last July when we were in France I felt compelled to visit the memorial on which he is commemorated. We left Paris early in the morning and drove north to Amiens, and the Pozieres Memorial, passing several smaller military cemeteries along the way. The countryside was wide open and green, while the clouds rolling in had that slight timbre of rumbling within them which signals a storm. After driving for just over two hours, we reached Pozieres. The imposing gateway is right next to the highway, and the cemetery dominates the surrounding landscape.

The principal gate of the Pozieres Memorial.
The inscription at the top of the principal gate describes those for whom the memorial stands:

In memory of the officers and men of the fifth and 
fourth armies who fought on the Somme battlefields 
21st March - 7th August 1918 and of those of their dead 
who have no known graves

Taken from just inside the main gate, this image gives a sense of the breadth of the memorial.
The Pozieres Memorial commemorates the loss of 14,656 souls. The panels on the surrounding walls are filled with the names of those killed who have no known grave; the inscriptions are in order by regiment. As you can see from the dates recorded on the gate, Francis Lyons was among those who were killed on the very first day of this period of battle.

On the day we visited, the rain held off, and after reading many of the other panels and following the numbers for a while, we went to panels 79 and 80, and there found the inscription in remembrance of Francis Lyons — LYONS,F. along with those of his fellow regiment members.

The sixth name down in the list of Serjeants lost: LYONS, F.
Francis Lyons is not only remembered at Pozieres, he is also commemorated on the pages of Ireland's Memorial Records, although there is a slight discrepancy in the dates. In the records of Pozieres, and on the gravestone in Glasnevin, the date is noted as 21 March 1918, but on Ireland's Memorial Records, the date is recorded as 3 April 1918. Whatever the precise date might be, on the day Francis Lyons was forever lost to his family on the battlefields of northern France, he was only 30 years old. May the precious picture affixed to his family's grave stone long stand in his memory.

Be sure to visit the Sepia Saturday blog to see how others have interpreted today's theme.

Click on images to view larger versions.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Happy, Happy Birthday Mike!

With another year past and many more to come, Happy, happy birthday with love to my big brother!

Pre-iTunes days, rocking it out in your pram.
A handsome little man with his Easter basket.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wordless Wednesday, almost: 'Earth and Sky'

Seems a lot of people are suffering through bad weather of late, with terrible winter storms in Ireland, and a deep freeze in parts of North America, so on this almost wordless Wednesday I am journeying back to October of 2013, and Autumn days in Ireland.

The autumnal weather, with more frequent rain and the vacillation between warm days and cool, plays with the light and colour of the land, creating a beautiful canvas. So too, I find the bracing breezes of the Fall make me feel glad to be alive, and the landscape makes me feel deeply connected to the past. I hope you enjoy this journey I call 'Earth and Sky', and that viewing these peaceful settings brings warmth your way.

Walking toward the sea near Portmarnock, North County Dublin.
Looking toward Lambay Island, Dublin.
The donkey sanctuary at Farmleigh House, Phoenix Park, Dublin.
A couple of the sanctuary's guests, having a feed and enjoying the sun.
Looking out from the summit of Howth Head, Dublin.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Nollaig na mBan: Women's Christmas

6 January marks the date of ‘Nollaig na mBan', which literally translated into English is ’Christmas of Women’, but which is traditionally called Women's Christmas or Women's Little Christmas. On this day, women all over Ireland honour the long held custom of gathering together for their own little celebration.

Women’s Christmas finds its origins in the days when large families were the norm, and women were entirely responsible for the running of the household and care of the children. Men’s work took them outside the home, so they neither did, nor were expected to do, any of the housework. Some say a man doing something as simple as washing a few dishes risked being called an ‘auld woman’ by other men.

L to R: Mom's friend Anne, elder sister Bernadette, dear friend Joan,
Bernadette's sister-in-law Mary, my mom Mary. 
The tradition of Women’s Christmas meant that after all the work of the Christmas season, housewives and mothers finally got a break, at least for this one day. Each year on this day in January, men would take over the running of the household and care of the children, while women took the opportunity to go out and spend time with one another.

Whether the gathering place was the home of one of the women, whose husband and children had been shuttled off to the home of another, or at a social club or pub, after an initial chat about the cares of the old year, the women made a pact to leave their troubles on the doorstep. These days cell/smartphones are shut off and stowed away, or else put in the centre of the table, hidden from view by a table napkin. Women are free from the cares of house and home, and work outside the home, for the entire day and on into the evening.

In Ireland, women were not allowed into pubs until 1958, unless accompanied by a man. Some pubs stretched this prohibition well into the 1970s; however, on Women’s Christmas, women were allowed to eat and drink in this men’s preserve, with neither shame nor a chaperone. The women would inhabit the 'snug', a small private room often situated just inside the front door of the pub, or accessible by a separate door. Some Irish pubs still have snugs, and some of them are very snug indeed.

Women would pool together the few shillings they had saved for their special day, and use the money to buy everyone in their group a drink. It might be a small sherry, or a warm brandy, a ‘half’ of stout or a small glass of wine, which they would happily sip while dining on beef sandwiches or similar fare that was provided by the publican and his wife.

In Dublin, on Women’s Christmas, there is quite a din in both the restaurant and the wine cellar in one of my favourite foodie places — Fallon & Byrne on Wicklow Street — as it is filled with Irish women, young and old, laughing and talking as they enjoy lunch or supper together. It is a lovely sight to behold.

These days wine and lunch or supper have replaced stout and beef sandwiches, women are no longer confined to the snug of a public house, and many Irish men now actively participate in the care of children and home, but nevertheless the tradition of Nollaig na mBan survives.

Left to Right: an unknown friend, Mom's sister Bernadette, their Aunt May Barnwell, my mom Mary.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year! May the light of many rainbows fill the skies in your life...

A rainbow over Strokestown House, Strokestown, County Roscommon.
Welcome 2014!
Happy New Year
To You and Yours.
May the luck and light 
of many rainbows 
fill the skies in your life
in the year to come.
A rainbow over the quays, Dublin City.
A rainbow in the skies near Swords Road, North County Dublin.
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