Uncategorized

Trawling the graveyards of history

I’m dying to share this… how one woman is remembered in the Caribbean.

From the inscription which marks the span of her life.

From sunrise to sunset…

You have to think that Emily was a ray of sunshine herself.

Well, she was from Tobago, an island where rain is known as liquid sunshine… www.visittobago.gov.tt.

Insert your own caption here

And I left with a mountain of memories… It’s Robinson Crusoe’s very own Tobago and I should cocoa – Christmas in Tobago.

I was thinking about death today (no, not a heavy Saturday night) but a regular occurrence.

After visiting the ancient burial ground of Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, near my home here in Ireland.

 

It’s a mystery: In Tobago

I may well have inherited my fascination for graveyards from my Dear Old Dad who I’ll meet there one day.

The Tobagonians have a unique way of seeing life… and death.

As evidenced by this riddle on what has become the most famous grave on the island.

Riddle me this: In Tobago

So that you don’t have to strain your eyes too much the gist of the inscription on the 1783 grave in Plymouth reads in part:

‘She was a mother without knowing it, and a wife without letting her husband know it except by her kind indulgences to him.’

Riddles in Tobago

Now we were asked by our hosts the same question they pose to every visitor: ‘What the heck does it mean?’

My answer, the obvious one, is it’s a woman, whoever knows what goes on in their minds.

Marilyn and me: LA

I keep my eyes open for graves and final resting places wherever I go.

Just this year I discovered that Marilyn Monroe’s final resting place is off a busy street in LA… www.visitcalifornia.com and www.discoverlosangeles.com.

Where she is forced to spend eternity with her old nemesis Hugh Hefner which I tell you all about on this blog… My weekend with Marilyn

 

You can’t pick your neighbours

Of course, graveyards have strong personal connections to those who are related to, or are friends of the deceased.

World War I battlefields

Such as when I was the first of my family to kneel at the graveyard of my Great Uncle Willie who fell in Ieper, or Ypres.

While on that tour of the World War I battlefields In Flanders fields with www.gtitravel.ie and www.visitflanders.com and http://www.visit-somme.com I visited the Canadian and German memorials.

The Canadian memorial with its Caribou statue has a special resonance for my family as Grandpa George fought for the Canadian Army.

And met Granny Mary, a nurse, when he returned to Scotland.

A South African tale

War and graveyards tend to go hand in hand.

And in a visit to the Eastern Cape in South Africa at the start of the year What’s new pussycat? I braved the cold and the damp…

And the big game to visit the graveyard of an Afrikaans resistance fighter from the Boer War…

Of course hanging around graveyards at this time of year you’re liable do get some spooky vibes.

And the lines between this life and the next can become blurred.

Make of me and my colleagues from that trip to South Africa what you will… www.southafrica.net.

Uncategorized

Every day’s a poppy day

Take up your quarrel with the foe.

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with those who die.

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant-Colonel John McRae, Canadian Expeditionary Force

Shadows of history

This week I will wear my red poppy cufflinks with pride, pride that my paternal grandfather fought and was gassed out of the front.

And returned to Scotland to marry an Irish nurse.

If he hadn’t my father wouldn’t have come along and wouldn’t have met his own Irish nurse.

Who herself hailed from a proud Irish Nationalist family who gave two sons, my Great-Uncles, to the cause.

My story will be a familiar one, a heroic one, of extraordinary, ordinary people, Irish, Scottish, English, Canadian, American, German… from all around the world.

In the trenches

I stood by my Great-Uncle Willie’s gravestone in Ypres, the first of my family to pray by his cross since he fell.

I found Great Uncle Patrick’s name too among those of the missing on the Thiepval arch.

And I also visited Canadian and German cemeteries, a lake made out of the crater from the bombs, and a trench.

All on my GTI The Group Travel Specialists https://gtitravel.ie trip to Flanders https:www.visitflanders.com/en/?country=en_GB and the Somme https://www.visit-somme.com/great-war.

GTI offers a four days WW1 Flanders & The Somme, price from €697pps. Dates available 07 Apr 2020 – 10 Apr 202024 May 2020 – 27 May 202025 Jul 2020 – 28 Jul 202010 Sep 2020 – 13 Sep 2020

Mu Great-Uncle Patrick

I have had to defend my wearing of the red poppy while living these past 13 years in Ireland, which I’m happy to do, for my Grandpa and my Great-Uncles.

A symbol of peace

The objection is that the red poppy is worn for the fallen of all British soldiers across all conflicts.

Which includes the Troubles and also raises the thorny subject of Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.

I understand the difficulties for some over that, my Grandfather having lived a large part of his life there.

Many of my aunts, and an uncle, having been born there, and Grandpa having run pubs there over a period which also covered The Troubles.

The Canadian cemetery

I have also fielded criticisms from friends (they’re still friends) who say the red poppy has been appropriated by big commerce and narrow nationalism.

I can only say that I have had similar journeys of conscience regarding the red poppy.

But my visit to Flanders and the Somme have focused me on the universality of the human sacrifice there.

How all the crosses regardless of social status are the same size and pristine white.

I was touched by the respect shown by the youths of so many nations there.

Man-made crater

And was honoured to be picked with my good friend Dominic Burke, MD of Travel Centres, to present the wreath at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ieper.

I will light my candle on Sunday and watch it flicker, blow it out and then reflect on the fragility of life and the permanence of death.

And the greatest sacrifice any human can make, to give up their life for their friends.

Here is my tribute… In Flanders fields.