Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Happy birthday, Grandad!

My Grandfather would have been one hundred and two today if he was still alive. As it was, he only made it to seventy six. He died on 12th April 1981.

I loved my Grandad, very dearly. He was more of a Father to me than the real thing, always greeting me with a smile and a joke, pulling my leg, giving me sweets, talking to me at length about his interesting life, but most importantly, always telling me I was a nice boy and making me feel good about myself.

I sometimes think about one of his Grandfathers. I always used to think the paternal wing of his family came from Edinburgh, but indeed, they did not. Skipping back a couple of generations, I see that John Bartie was born on 4th October 1837 in a town called Nenagh, Co Tipperary, Ireland. I know nothing about his parents or where they came from. They might have been from Ireland, they might have been Scottish, I'm not sure, but I do know that they took him to live in the highlands of Scotland when he was very young, probably before school age as he bagan his education somewhere in Aberdeenshire.

I can't see that he had a University education, though, as at the age of eighteen he joined the army, the Queens Light Infantry, then the 71st Highlanders, and finally, 87th Regiment Royal Irish Fusiliers. Quite a mixed bag. He certainly saw the world whilst in the army, serving in Malta, the East Indies, Canada (Halifax, Nova Scotia) and fabulous Bermuda. He was discharged from the army in Co Cork in 1878.

Bizarrely, on leaving the army, he became a watch-maker and jewellery dealer.

Why he and his family ended up in Guernsey, I don't know. But I'm going off course...

I just wonder what relationship he'd have had with his Grandson, my Granadfather, what this Victorian Irish man who'd spent a great deal of his life in the British army might have been like. Would he have played with my Grandfather, bounced him on his knee or been the embodiment of the Victorian cliché, believeing children should be seen and not heard?

I'd like to know, but I never will.

As much as I enjoyed my Grandfather's stories in my youth and paid attention at the time, I was far too young to remember it all. Now he's dead and I'll never know.

PS I'm such a dick. I thought it was 9th August today. I've just realised it's 8th August. Is it bad luck to wish someone a happy birthday before the actual day, you know, like buying a congratulations on the birth of your child card before the baby's actually been born? Have I got seven years of bad luck now?


A Novelist said...

What an endearing post. Your grandfather sounded like a wonderful man. :)

Moncrief Speaks said...

Don't say "I'll never know," hen. You could do research on these things, or many of them. You'd be surprised the records that exist, even online. Check out ancestry.com for a start. Although it's mostly US-based, they have some UK information too.

Brian said...

I have mixed feelings about my grandfathers. I thought they were both super men who worked very, very hard for their families. Sadly, I also know that if they'd ever known I was gay, they probably would have donned hoods and lynched me themselves. I try to look past that but it's hard.