Family Lines – part 3

So, Grandpa Flor and Grandma Ellen – as was the Catholic Irish way – had a large family. They must have sometimes lost count. Six boys and four girls I believe (edit – I’m advised eight boys, four girls + one more adopted), though I’ll need to check that. All somehow lived together at ‘Tonafora’. Flor & Ellen had their own room, the boys in another and the girls in the last one. They would sleep, like pilchards in a tin, alternatively head to feet.


Grandma Ellen, outside Tonafora

No wonder that they scattered to the four winds once they were old enough. Their stories are, for the most part, long forgotten. The family lived through the early years of the last century, through the War of Independence with Britain and the ensuing Civil War which saw the birth of the Irish Free State. Indeed Uncle Jimmy, one of the youngest boys, was born during Easter Week 1916. The somewhat bodged ‘Rising’ that week nonetheless kick-started Ireland’s freedom from British rule.


Cousin Mary, Jimmy’s daughter, d.2013

Uncle Jimmy became a legend in my eyes. He worked on the railways. When I first knew him he was a level-crossing keeper. He lived only a couple of hundred yards from ‘Tonafora’ with his wife Sheila and his children – my cousins – Mary and Ann. The West Cork line ran through the meadows here between Cork city and Bantry. When the bell sounded in their house Jimmy would put on his hat, completing his uniform, and would head outside and open the level crossing gates. We’d stand on the gates and watch the train rumble through. Later, Jimmy would go on to work at Cobh Station, out along the estuary from the city. He died one Christmas, relaxing in his armchair with a glass of whiskey after lunch.


The last inhabitants. Aunt Nuala with husband Jack outside a renovated Tonafora in 1989. Tonafora has since been demolished.

My father Donal was the youngest of the boys. I used to travel back to Dunmanway with him when I was young. We’d do the rounds of aunts, uncles, cousins. I used to think Ireland as a sort of fairyland and I never got over my love for the place.

But what of my mother’s side, I hear you cry. Part 4 coming up.

Family Lines – part 2

Irish lineage is notoriously difficult to negotiate. Few records exist prior to 1800. Registration of all births, marriages and deaths did not begin until 1864. The census records from inception (1821) up to 1851 were destroyed by fire in 1922 during the Civil War. The records from 1861 – 1891 were, unbelievably, pulped by government order to support the 1914-18 war effort.

Add to this that County Cork was overrun with McCarthys and given names tended to follow a narrow pattern down through most families. The task of even reaching back to the mid 19c was not easy.

However, my Great-Grandpa Jeremiah married Mary (also a McCarthy) in 1864 in Dunmanway, West Cork. They are recorded living in West Green, Dunmanway in 1911 when Jeremiah was 74 and Mary 72.

One of their 11 children was Florence (Flor), my Grandpa (b.1877). He was to marry Ellen Murray (b.1880) in 1903. The Murrays hailed from the townland of Behagullane, which is a few miles north of Dunmanway. They made their home at ‘Tonafora’, a cottage down a lane a mile or so outside Dunmanway town. The story is that Flor was granted an acre of land to house his family.


Taken at Tonafora early 1930s – Grandma Ellen, Aunt Nuala, Grandpa Flor, two unknown aunts.

I have early memories of both Flor and Ellen. I spent several extended holidays at Tonafora as a child. Flor was, by some accounts, a harsh man. He worked hard at labouring and I recall he would regularly collect horse dung from the lane in a bucket for gardening purposes. My Grandma Ellen was always happy to see me though I recall that she could never understand a word I said to her, Dad having to translate.

More to come in part 3.

Family Lines – part 1

I’ve recently been inspired, by a couple of excellent blogs, to write down for the record a little of my ancestry. Those inspirational blogs are

I commend both to you. They are quite different but both have a true feel for Irish history, including that of their own families.

You should also visit Kerry Duncan’s blog ‘Postcards from Kerry’. Kerry has recently been looking at some work done on her ancestry and she has uncovered some great secrets.

There is so much social history that is lost and whatever we can preserve will make research that much easier for those that come after us.

So I’m going to work backwards and we’ll see how we get on. But the story starts with the next generation and my children Eoin (b.1987) and Emma (b.1989). Eoin is a qualified doctor working in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Emma works for the States, the government here in Jersey, Channel Islands.


Here is a recent view, one of my favourites, of the Beauport headland here in Jersey

I have, or had, three siblings. I’m the elder statesman (b.1953), then there is Terence (b.1957) and Colin (b.1961). Colin’s twin Kieran died some years ago.

We were all born and raised in Birmingham to Donal and Joan. Dad died some years ago but Mam is still, at 86, buzzing around in the old homestead. Both came over to Ireland in the late 1940s – like so many of their compatriots – and, after living and working in Blackburn, found their way down to Birmingham where they settled.

Some old photos to follow, but here’s one to be going on with. It will have been taken about 1956 in Dunmanway, West Cork. The grown-ups are my Uncle Jimmy, Grandma Ellen, Aunt Nuala and Grandpa Flor. The little girls are my cousins Ann and Mary. Only Ann is still alive.


In part 2 I’ll explore my antecedents on my Dad’s side.

Aspirations of a Sheep

In A West Cork Mystery Joe and Miranda, touring around the west of Ireland, stopped to stretch their legs. Leaning against a wall they looked across the vast, rolling, rocky countryside with, in the distance, some woolly inhabitants. One sheep appeared to be heading up a hill, away from the flock. Joe and Miranda lightly speculated that this sheep was determined to find a different, better life. No longer would she run with the crowd.

Most stories begin with a single idea, or incident, that inspires the writer. Some of these ideas are better expressed in the short story. dfw-rm-aoas-cover-3d

So at last I got around to gathering together some of these bits and pieces that I’ve jotted down over the years. (I was pleased to rescue the earliest of these from an old laptop that was, surprisingly, still working.) There’s no central theme but – as you might expect – there’s a bit of Jersey nostalgia in there among what is a fairly random collection. Fourteen stories in all and you might like a few.

Not a long read and priced accordingly – £0.99 or $0.99. Available to download now by clicking here for Amazon UK or here for, paperback to follow.

Let me know what you think.

Is the Blogger Dying?


Ronez Quarry, St John, Jersey, active since 1861

It was about 2005 that I started creating a simple website diary to talk about my new-found passion of running. The word ‘weblog’ had only recently been coined and I suppose mine was indeed a type of early blog. Maybe it’s still out there in some corner of cyberspace where abandoned websites still live sad and lonely lives waiting for a reader to show up.

In early 2008 I emigrated (or so I thought) to Ireland.  In October of that year I set up a proper blog to cover my adventures there. Roy in Ireland is still readable, though the posts have been brought onto this blog’s archive.

I started this blog up shortly after my unexpected return to Jersey, along with a now-mothballed blog entitled Athletics Jersey. It covered a lot of stuff connected with writing, and indeed my growing love for my home island. And, until fairly recent, I continued to be an active blogger. I’m not sure what happened.

Today I took a look at the 54 blogs listed in my Reader. I categorised them as follows.

  • Active – 26
  • Sporadic – 14
  • Dead – 14

So I’m not the only one. I wonder, are new blogs springing up to replace those dying a natural death? I’m not so sure. Maybe us bloggers are dying off and people are taking more to bite-sized applications like Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and God knows what else.

What do you reckon? Are we an endangered species?

The Green Island Escape Attempt

A postscript to the photo of Maurice Gould’s grave in the previous post. This story is well told in Peter Hassall’s own words, those of the incomparable Michael Ginns MBE, deportee and chronicler of the Occupation years and Mike Bisson’s immense work of local reference Jerripedia. If you follow that last link you will find photos of all three young men involved.

On 3rd May 1942 late in the evening, Dennis Audrain, Peter Hassall and Michael Gould set sail for France. All were mere teenagers. The Island was by then of course under military occupation. The lads had access to their small boat only because of a fishing permit. Almost immediately the boat ran into rough waters and capsized. Audrain was drowned, the other two swam ashore to be arrested by the Military Police. They were carrying photographs of German defences and were therefore assured of harsh treatment.

Later that month the pair were taken to a German concentration camp Hinzert where they were tortured and beaten over a long period, as well as working 12-hour days on starvation rations. In July 1942 they were transferred to Wittlich where a severely weakened Gould died of TB. Before he died, Hassall promised that he would not leave Gould in Germany.

In June 1944 Hassall was tried in Breslau on charges of espionage. He had no defense lawyer. He was found guilty, sentenced to death, but because of his youth this sentence was suspended and he was put to work in Swidnica, Poland. Finally he was moved to Hirschberg until, on 8th May 1945, the lone warder simply opened the gates.

Peter finally returned to Jersey months later. For over fifty years, and despite moving to Canada, he made efforts to fulfill his promise to Maurice Gould. Finally, on 3rd May 1997 (55 years to the day since the escape attempt) Gould’s remains were re-interred at Howard Davis Park.

Peter Hassall died in 1999.

Howard Davis Park, Spring 2016

Most weekday mornings and evenings I walk through this park to and from work. It is on the fringes of St Helier. I am always impressed with the hard work, dedication and care that the gardening staff show, but right now, in the springtime, it is a picture.

I wrote of the interesting history of the park in October 2010.

First of all, a bit of fun – a couple of ‘then and now’ shots. The first one is (I believe) from shortly after the park opened to the public in 1938 and I think it has been colourised. (Photo credit to Jerripedia). The second is from much the same angle today.

So onto the main gallery where you can see the Allied War Cemetery, the formal gardens (looking a bit bare), exterior and interior shots of the billiard room, the only remaining bit of the original property ‘Plaisance’, a silhouette of George V with the mast of ‘Westward’ behind him, the Merton Hotel (in the ‘then’ shot above) and a general selection of shots, the final one with St Luke’s Church as the backdrop.

You’ll notice, top right, the grave of Maurice Gould. He is part of one of Jersey’s Occupation ‘escape’ stories which I will relate at some point.

Trinity tales

Here’s a re-blog of a post from way back in September 2010.

Back On The Rock

If you set foot on the cliff paths of Jersey’s north coast you should know that you’ll be in for a tough walk/jog/run.  The path sweeps from low to high and some of the climbs are fierce, even with the great work done down the years to provide steps in the steepest places.

However the weather was magnificent as I set off from White Rock with the French coast as clear as a bell; also the Ecrehous, the group of islets inhabited in the summer by a few fisherfolk.  The best-known resident was of course Alphonse Le Gastelois who lived in self-imposed exile there from 1961 to 1975.

Here’s a 20-minute interview with him recorded in 1968

The trot from White Rock to Bouley Bay is the easiest bit, though that’s not saying much.  Dropping down to the bay the sign of the Black Dog reminds me that I ought…

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Release of Barry2

Happy to say that my fifth novel is now available for Amazon Kindle. Paperback coming soon.


It is, of course, a sequel to my first novel Barry. That first book was written before I even learnt that there was method in writing stories. I wonder if this one is an improvement after years of practice, absorption of advice and mixing with other indie authors.

As I did the final read through it struck me how multi-toned the story is. It was meant to be fairly earnest but I couldn’t resist having fun with my older Irish couple. I was pleased to see that each of my characters have individual quirks and/or issues, without me having planned them. These characters colourise the story around the main protagonists Barry and Lara who are, by contrast, always strong and reliable.

And I wonder if readers will feel the latent menace in the Miere sub-plot, or whether I’ve failed in that?

And did I rush the ending? Could I have strung it out, built the suspense?

Anyway, it’s out there to either fly or to crash and burn. I hope you give it a try.

The missing tower

First Tower old 1

The round tower at First Tower, St Helier, many years ago. Note the water tower atop the original structure.


The round tower from much the same angle today. Where did the water tower go?


There it is! Someone nicked it and I found it up their drive.

Edit Apr 2016 – A friend reports that she spoke to an old lady at the property recently. She related that her grandfather had the tower transported (she doesn’t know when or how) to the present site when it had fallen out of use. He had a use for it for his nearby commercial greenhouses. (Further edits if and when possible.)