Clockwise from left: Mary, Granny Polland (I do not know her name), Betty, Hugh, Jane (in front) and Harry in the middle circa 1935?
I was an only child until I was nine years of age and my parents adopted a three-year 0ld girl who was to be my new little sister. (My mother had given birth to a boy when I myself was three, but he had died of jaundice after only five days.)
So, you can imagine how hard it is for me to fathom my own father’s family consisting of not merely one or two kids, but twelve! (Of course it was a Catholic family.) My father came in at number seven (He always claimed that as his lucky number and so do I, though I never win anything in lotteries or draws. But then again, neither did he.)
The oldest in the family were Mary and Tom; then followed (I’m not certain of the order) John, Mick, R.J., Rona (Veronica), my dad—William (Harry), Josephine (Josie), Betty, Odran (called Hugh), Jane (called Girlie)and Patrick (Pat).
As far as I know, Mary is the only one of the twelve to have stayed in Belfast, or in Ireland at all, for that matter. The remainder spent the better part of their lives in England, or for a short time, Scotland (Josie worked at Butlin’s holiday camp outside Ayr.)
The boys were all in the army or navy, except for Pat and Hugh. Pat had meningitis as a baby and was developmentally disabled from then on. I remember my dad was always bundling up his clothes into boxes and shipping them back home for Pat. Pat died some time in the late 1970s, but I did get the chance to meet him once when we went overseas as a family in 1977. He was always in great admiration of my dad—the great man who’d made it big in Canada.
I have so many cousins – some I’ve never met, or likely even heard of. While in the Republic of Ireland in ‘77 (it was a bad time to go to the north so the Belfast contingent came down to us), I came face to face for with Mary’s son, Harry and it was honest-to-god like looking in a mirror. I have never forgotten that.
Only the girls are left now. With my dad’s death in November 2008, all the boys have passed on. Both Mary and Josie reportedly have Alzheimer’s. Betty (a woman with a heart of gold and the heartiest laugh you can imagine) lives on the Isle of Wight with one of her son’s, Jerome, who is the kindest soul and looks out for his mum. Jane—who I’ve had the great fortune to spend quality time with on my own adventures in the past, now lives in Spain with my uncle Ernest. Veronica (Rona) passed away a few years back, but I had occasion to visit with her in the 90s and we got along very well.
Just one-third of the Davison children remain. I’m just sorry that I have no kids of my own to carry on the family line.
For more exceptional Sepia Saturday posts, please visit News From Nowhere, maintained by the erudite and charming, Alan Burnett.