Monday, 26 March 2012

Too many celebrations!

I am starting to get rather overwhelmed with so many things to celebrate lately.  After getting married last weekend, I scarcely had time to recover when it was St Patrick’s Day followed by Mother’s day and my Kate’s birthday.

My Wedding Day
My maternal grandfather was Irish, the oldest of 13 children.  He and his three brothers left school very early with no qualifications and even less prospects in a very economically depressed Ireland.  As young men they set sail for Canada where they were allocated land by the government and created a farm from the wilderness.  However, my grandfather Tom found the Canadian weather exacerbated his chest problems so he packed up and set off for California.  That was in 1906 and soon after arriving in San Francisco, the city was devastated by a huge earthquake.  Although he had so little, he lost it all.  After helping in the rescue operation, he took various other jobs including lumberjack, and gardening work but with itchy feet, he decided to set sail once again.  He arrived in New Zealand to a letter from his mother which had taken almost two months to reach him from Ireland.  She wrote that as he was in the area, he may as well keep going to Melbourne where he could meet up with an old family friend who may help him find work.  He took the advice, went for tea with the family and ended up marrying Sylvia, the daughter.  That was years later; first he moved up to the country where he became a pioneer in the fruit industry, building an orchard from scratch.  It was only when he could afford to build a house that he could ask for Sylvia’s hand. So that is how I ended up eligible for an Irish passport and with a love of Guinness! 

Guinness beer drinkers
As soon as Tom’s brothers had made enough money in Canada, they went back to Ireland to collect their almost destitute mother and sister to care for them back in Canada. Each St Patrick’s Day I think of my grandfather Tom and his brothers who worked so hard to lift themselves from a life of poverty.
…but that is not the end of the story of my family’s itchy feet! My father’s father Bert was an Englishman, born in Rochester down the road from our Medway campus.  He travelled to America where he met my future grandmother, Alice, in Oregon. She came from French and Danish stock and made quite an impression on him as she stood 5’11” with her extraordinary strawberry blond hair and an outspoken manner . To the consternation of polite society, they eloped when she was 19 and he fifteen years older.  Bert was an engineer, specialising in equipment for the burgeoning canning industry and his work took them to Japan and Alaska so that he could develop machines for the salmon fishing industry.  My uncle was born in Alaska.  A few years later the family was in New Zealand en route to Australia when Alice gave birth to my dad in a rooming house near Auckland. That makes four different nationalities in one family! Once she was well enough, the family travelled to Australia where Bert looked for an engineering job in the fruit canning industry.  This is how Tom the orchardist, who sent his fruit to the cannery, met Bert the engineer.  By now Tom and Sylvia had three sons and two daughters and the families became very close, with the children attending the same schools and the boys playing together on the orchard at weekends.  Years later the second world war ended, Tom and Sylvia’s beautiful daughter Ruth fell in love with Bert and Alice’s handsome naval officer son Dick and they married. They had a son and five daughters.  They named their second daughter Alice – that is me.

I have always been so proud of my mixed heritage and the pioneering spirit of my family and I get to celebrate all the national days so Happy belated St Patrick’s day!

I spent Mothers’ Day in West Sussex helping Kate with her 30 km endurance ride.  I’d describe it as rally driving but on four legs instead of wheels with no brakes and a horse, called Val, with a mind of his own.  It involved Kate riding through different sorts of terrain, fording streams and thundering up and down hills. My role was to work with her boyfriend  to meet at the check points with supplies of Kate feed and horse feed then take lots of photos.

Kate takes a pit stop
 In between navigating down various country lanes getting very confused by the dodgy instructions, we managed to fit in breakfast  and decent coffee between the first two refuelling stops and a half pint of the local bitter in the aptly named White horse pub  between the next two – all very civilised! We all had a lovely day out but I had forgotten how much mud there is in the country.  The car needed a thorough muck-out afterwards. 

We had our tri-celebration with chocolate cake and bubbly then it was off back to civilisation and pending course work deadlines.  Unfortunately my computer blew up and had to go off to the IT hospital so I am anxiously awaiting news of the patient and am feeling rather bereft. Luckily we still have some wonderful leftovers from our wedding so if things get too tough we still have plenty of bubbly!

The Spoils!
I dug out my old lap top that I last used a year ago.  It took about three days to do all the updates and nearly drove me up the wall.  Time was ticking past and I was due to submit the first draft of my personal development  project on the Tuesday.  I managed to cobble something together and aplogise for the poor quality of it with a promise to my tutor that I would be head down and focussed all Easter!

Sources:  Mothers’ Day  -
                 St Patricks Day –
                 Guinness -   


  1. Nice blog. For a bit of light relief you might like this cartoon about a disaster recovery plan.

  2. Al
    Nice little summary!