I was not quite sure what to write about in this blog. In the end it has turned out to be a blog about trying to find my father’s birth place (see photo below – bizarrely – read on all will become clear). It’s Monday morning the house is cold and we’ve been forbidding ourselves from putting the central heating on until October, we’ve been away in Ireland and when we get back, hey presto, it is October but we still haven’t put the heating on. We only got back at 8.30 last night after the tedious 3 hour drive back from Holyhead. So, so far, no heating and no blog. I’m trying to rectify the latter and Mrs Summerhouse is making threatening noises about putting on the central heating even if it isn’t character building. She put it on, wimp.
We had a great week in Ireland as I hope I’ve demonstrated in my last two blogs. The weather for the whole week has been fantastic. I’ve been a bit critical in parts but then nowhere is perfect. And there is so much to like, particularly the warmth of the people. The latest example was an old chap who I met in Limerick and who gave me a book on the history of the city. I’ll come back to him in a moment.
On the way back from County Kerry, the most south westerly part of Ireland, we stayed the night in Limerick. Limerick and us had a bad start last trip thanks to the Travelodge hotel but we got over it and decided we would give it another try on our return journey. Part of the reason for trying again was that I have found out (by examining his birth certificate) that this was where my father was born. In fact in Strand Barracks (above) in Limerick where his father was stationed, he being a soldier in, what was then, the British army. My father was born in 1908 which of course was prior to 1922 and Irish independence. I believe the regiment – The Royal Munster Fusiliers, (RMF) 5th Battalion (all this written on the birth certificate) – was sent out to India between 1908 and 1922 when it was disbanded after Irish independence.
I have no information about the years up to 1922 and their time in India but will continue with my modest research into this period of my father’s life at a later point. I have left all this research very late. My father died in 1953 aged 45 when I was 5 and, sad to say, I’ve shown very little interest in his life until chance took us back to that part of Ireland. I did a few years ago travel to Oregon to meet with my aunt, his youngest sister- there were 5 of them altogether – but, by that time, even though she was the youngest and the only one left alive, her memory had pretty much gone and I got no further. So I let it lie until the last trip to Ireland and this was when I tried to do a bit more detective work on my father’s early life.
The old gentleman with the book we met while trying to find the above mentioned Strand Barracks. I met him on the bridge crossing the Shannon, asked him if he was local (I had already tried a non-local and a guy from Poland, so I had to be cautious), he was local. I asked him if he could tell me which building was / had been the barracks. He not only pointed out the building but told me to come back to his house, a short walk away, and he would give me a book (apologising for it not being a new one which somebody had borrowed and not returned) about the history of Limerick and there would be something about the barracks in there*. The barracks had figured in an episode of the fight for Irish independence, bullet holes and all. So we walked to the building, it was now converted to apartments and it was hard to see the history in it nor could I see the bullet holes. Perhaps apartment owners don’t want bullet holes in their building and they had been filled in? I was glad I found this sign to confirm it was the right building. Not disheartened I continued the search. I went into a nearby antique shop and asked the lady whether she had any memorabilia related to the RMF. She told me she did have an old photograph of the barracks but had sold it. I pressed on to the local museum called The Hunt Museum, a historical collection. The very nice lady at the desk said she thought they might have something in their library about the barracks and the regiment. She returned a long time later to report that unfortunately no they had not. But, I might try the Celtic bookshop across the road as the man there was very knowledgeable about local history.
I crossed the road and into the shop, after a bit of discussion about what I was after – at this point a book about the regiment – he told me he could definitely say there was no book about the regiment and suggested buying the book about the history of Limerick as in photo, the very one the kindly old gentleman had given me earlier. And that was about it other than a visit to Tourist Information in the library, except the library was closed, but there was another one on O’Connell street, except that had moved and when we found where it had moved to it had shut and would re-open on Monday. Make a note, do not try genealogical tasks in person at the weekend. So I gave up. I’d known all along that I could go on line and search the archives at Kew or even go in person but I thought I might be able to do the same thing at source so to speak. Well, that turned out not to be the case but nevertheless I felt I had a little better sense of where my father was borne and the Irish in him even though he was apparently largely brought up in India. I probably won’t go there.
I know from a couple of retired acquaintances that they have been researching their family trees so it’s obvious that this is the kind of activity retired people engage in. An activity about the missing links in one’s life that suddenly seem important to examine and, if possible, join up. Not, for me, the missing link I have written about before but who knows where it might take me in my retirement years.
PS I’d vaguely started out to write a blog about sport but in the end I hadn’t the heart.
*I haven’t looked yet, I’ve been trying to write this retirement blog.