I must be a half-wit because Bill’s challenge to take a sentence, remove the latter half, think of a bunch of endings for the leftover bit and then tinker with it until it became some kind of poem proved to be a real challenge for me. The result (for better or worse) is the following piece of — well YOU decide. Does it mean anything? Not really. Is it profound? Don’t think so! Better luck next time, I guess. Cheers!
Incidentally, the original line was this one, taken from Canadian author, Kim Echlin’s excellent book, “The Disappeared”:
Annalong (where my Great-grandmother, Margaret Kearney comes from).
I’ve been doing some travelling this week. I didn’t have to pack a bag, or buy a ticket or pay a red cent. I’ve been taking a virtual trip through the roads at the foot of the Mountains of Mourne where they “sweep down to the sea”.
If you visit www.vpike.com and put in an an address anywhere in the world, much like Google Earth, you can drop down to street level and have a nose around. With vpike (and a whole lot of patience), you can slowly make your way along the actual roads and see the sights without leaving your chair. I’ve been to Downpatrick and Saul (birthplace of my grandfather, Joseph Davison); I’ve travelled along the A2 road from Newcastle to Kilkeel and Glassdrumman with the countryside on my right and the actual Irish sea-view on my left-hand side. I’ve looked at cattle and sheep and even birds in the sky. God, my ancestors wouldn’t believe what I can do!
I’ve moved along “Head Road” just below the mountains where hikers can take long walks to the summit and look down at the Silent Valley here:
Gorgeous, isn’t it? Somewhere in these mountains, is this quarry where my father (I think he’s the one in the hat, saluting), his brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles went for holiday exercise and recreation in the 1930s. (I’m determined to find that too.)
That’s my dad, back right.
The most exciting and imagination-sparking thing however, was to find this cottage for rent in Glassdrumman itself. The cottage is over 200 years old and as I watched this video I imagined a very similar house built by my great-grandparents, Thomas and Margaret Polland of last week’s post. I can envision their large family living in a house such as this in the 1800s; Thomas and son Hugh, coming home from the Quarry where they slogged their guts out chipping away at the granite to make a living for the family. Margaret, cooking something hearty on the fire to keep them nourished for the work, the older girls doing chores and little kiddies running around in the green grass outside, at play. I can just see them all, can’t you?
Right now, I DO want to pack a bag, hop on a plane and go in search of my ancestors. I want to stand on the actual ground that the Pollands walked on and I want to step into the small doorway of the low-roofed house and close my eyes and sense their presence. It will have to wait though, but I will get there. One day.
In the meanwhile, enjoy this song I dug up the other day:
THE STONEMEN OF MOURNE
From the homestead on the hillside, From the cottage by the sea, From Annalong and Dinnywater, From the Race and Derryhea, From the Quarter and Glasdrumman, From the mountains and the shore, Came the men who took the granite From the hills above Dunmore.
Hardy men, tan faced and sturdy, True of eye and strong of bone, Wielding chisel, plug and hammer, Skilled in all the work on stone. Aiken, Annett, Marks, McCartan, Gibson, Gordon, Pue, Maginn, Rooney, Campbell, Carr and Burden, Bound by ties of kith and kin.
They took speckled Mourne granite, Bleached by sun and frost and wind, From the quarries high on Donard, From the Ballagh and Seefin. From the upper slopes of Bingian, From the Forks and Crockanroe, Chimney Rock and Clanawhillan, Where the whins and heather grow.
Setts to pave the streets of cities, Far from Carrick’s heathered face, Kribben from the Rocky Mountain, Slabs to mark man’s resting place. Block for cenotaph and castle, Stone for statue, wall and mill, Taken from a lonely quarry On a windswept Mourne hill.
The quarrymen have passed away, In churchyard now they lie, Their monument – the granite wall Upon the mountain high. Their epitaph – the song of larks O’er lovely Slievenagore, Above the silent smiddy, Where the sparks will fly no more.
Don’t forget to visit the Sepia Saturday gang and check out all the great posts this week. Thanks!
Well, the deadline is fast approaching for the release of my first collection of poems entitled, “shadowstalking” (in case you hadn’t gathered that).
Apparently, the printing press was experiencing some problems last week, so they are a bit behind schedule.
I’m not deluding myself that this book is anywhere near “Top Priority” with The Press; I’m just hopeful that now that the glitches are resolved, I’m not too far down the backlog list.
When I applied for my isbn number with Library and Archives Canada, I gave them the May 31 date as my eta, fully expecting it to be done well in advance of that, but I didn’t bank on all the formatting that would go into making the manuscript look professional (and we did that all ourselves). Actually, Kevin did the bulk of it and I must say, he did an amazing job.
The Press has also done a terrific job so far in realizing my vision for the cover, using the photograph that Sarah Wallis provided and I doctored up in Paint.net as well as incorporating my font-choice and the background which I wanted to resemble a tombstone as much as possible. When you all see the finished product, I’m sure you’ll agree that it is a success from that perspective especially.
So, I’m at a loose end here. I’m waiting for the “dummy” book to be made available to me to sign off on and it’s stifling my creativity in other areas. I really feel at a standstill—even my Ancestry search has come to a grinding halt in all directions. Yesterday, I was virtually travelling the roads of Northern Ireland below the Mountains of Mourne in the hope of stumbling across the cottage of my great-grandmother. Talk about your needle in a haystack! Poor Kevin just kept saying, Maybe we should get dinner going, Hon. It’s nearly 7:00 o’clock!
Well, I will keep you up-to-date on the progress with the book. You will know as soon as I do, when it will be available for you to point and click and order.
Please note: Yesterday, when I posted this, I was a bit pressed for time and as a result I neglected to mention that it is the charming Terresa Wellborn who hosts the above blog and who provided us with this intriguing photo-prompt.
I know what you’re all thinking! (Didn’t we see this picture before?) And you are right! It was posted in one of the early Sepia Saturday offerings, but this time I’m posting it for a particular reason. This week, you may have noticed that I’ve been absent again (apart from posting my poem “Good Earth” about out trip to the cemetery last week to plant some flowers on my dad’s grave). Well, I admit it; I got sucked into the Ancestry.com world again and I can’t get out! To be honest though, it wasn’t my fault. I popped on the site just to look one thing up (it was even on Kevin’s side) and I happened to notice that I had message in my inbox. Quickly, I clicked the message open and read a note from someone who said that I had their grandfather in my public family tree. She said his name was Thomas Davison and his parents were Mary Ann Polland and Joseph Davison. She begged to differ with me on some of my key information and although initially I was a bit dismayed, I had to concede after further investigation that she was correct. Through messages back and forth, we determined not only that we are second cousins, but that we have actually met! When I was 16, my parents took me and my sister, Nancy, to Europe and the U.K. for a fantastic 6 week vacation. (I think my dad spent the rest of his life paying for it) and while in England at my aunt Jane’s house in Surrey, my uncle Tom and his daughter and her husband and kids came for a visit. Their middle daughter is the person with whom I am now in contact and she’s in the U.S. I’m about 6-8 years her senior. We’ve been sharing information and photos and yesterday, my cousin happened to mention that she’d located a family tree on Ancestry.com that claimed to be listing our great-grandparents. Now, records on this website are mainly public and the way it works is this: if you add someone to your family tree and another person’s records list the same person, a little green leaf icon appears to indicate this. It works out well in most cases, but there is often much duplicate information and sorting through it to determine which dates and names agree is not always easy. When my cousin told me about this person’s tree featuring our great-grandparents, we were both a little dubious about it being correct, but when I managed to locate the tree, (it was coming up as private with the link she gave me and I wasn’t able to access it, so I had to do a fresh search) lo and behold, Thomas Polland appeared. This was interesting especially as it featured a very small head-shot of said, T. Polland. It listed his wife as Margaret Kearney and the first name agreed with what I now knew, but this was my first exposure to the name “Kearney”. Exciting stuff, but still unconfirmed. I next went to Margaret Kearney’s profile where I was stunned to find this photo:
Looks like someone we’ve seen before, doesn’t it? You can even see the glasses on her head in the top photo. (At this point chills run up my spine.) With this confirmation, I can now take a better look at the man, Thomas Polland:
(I must admit, I wasn’t expecting the suit and tie.) He was known as a “sett maker” (note: this website refers to Devon, England) which meant he sat on a stone bench next to a wall of granite in the Mourne mountains and using a mall and a muckle, carved blocks out of the granite to be used in construction in the nearby city of Belfast. This must have been agonizing work and often under the worst weather conditions. For all that, my great-grandfather looks a gentleman to me. For every mistake or dead-end, there is one of those “a-ha” moments that makes it all worthwhile.
Back to work for me. I’ve just posted to a West Belfast group on Facebook asking if anyone wants to look up my grandparents’ graves in Milltown Catholic cemetery. Who knows? Maybe someone will take me up on it!
Visit the Sepia Saturday blog to discover more family tales and treasures in photographs and letters and more.