PC 127 I went looking for a family seat

I went looking for a family seat ….. and added a few more threads to my knowledge of the family’s tapestry. In our hall there is an oil painting of a rather gorgeous lady and only recently I found out that she was a great great grandmother, Sarah Fosbery. I know from the marriage certificate of one of her nine daughters that she lived in Adare, County Limerick, in Ireland. A few of you may stop reading now, the blinds coming down with the words ‘great great gra…’, having a phobia for uncovering our unique ancestry; personally I think it’s fascinating and important and helps me feel more grounded in this world.

Sarah Fosbery 2

Sarah Eleanor Fosbery 1822-1861

Andrew Black was my contact and I hoped through him to find the family seat, the house near the town of Adare. He was a rather amusing chap, typically Irish, self-educated and self-made; he called a spade a spade, or a shovel, depending on his mood. He continuously expounded his dislikes for food, especially those dishes from other countries, a dislike of sport in any form and a fervent dislike for any other race than the Irish or English – well the white ones at least. Each position was justified with a passion; I sensed that within a few months we could have had some form of discussion, but he just ‘switched to send’ and talked …. and talked ….. as those from his country have a reputation to so do. He assured me he could ‘show me Curraghbridge House’ so we booked a couple of nights in the Absolute Hotel in Limerick (Note 1).

Limerick 5

I couldn’t come to the City of Limerick without understanding something of its history, as that was crucial to my own. The city sits at the upper limit of the navigational part of the river Shannon and has played a hugely important part in the history of Ireland. The castle dates from 1200; rebellions by the largely Catholic population led to it being besieged a number of times. The last one was in 1690 when the defeated Catholic armies of King James retreated to Limerick after the Battle of the Boyne and were besieged by the armies of the Protestant King William lll. The Treaty of Limerick in 1691 created a peace that lasts until today, although I sense that those with long memories believe this a black moment in Irish history. This treaty allowed Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan, to sail with his Irish Jacobite Army of some 19,000 to France, in what became known as the Flight of the Wild Geese (Note 2). With the Protestants victorious, land was distributed to a number of loyal English families who emigrated to Ireland. Burke’s ‘The Landed Gentry of Ireland’ (1910)  records that a Francis Fosbery was ‘said to have emigrated to Ireland 1690’ and settled in Clorane, on land south of the Shannon river, to the west of the town of Adare (pronounced Adooore if you have the Irish brogue!).

Limerick today is a place of “wonderful pubs, friendly people, scenic riverside views and an enormous castle”, but mention it to any Irishman, particularly those from Dublin, and they frequently mention the city’s nickname of ‘Stab City’. For sure there are areas of deprivation just like in many modern towns and cities, but we found the place safe and interesting, although I did find the height of the shower head in the Absolute Hotel had been fixed for Leprechauns, but that is a minor criticism!

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During our countryside search for Curraghbridge House we stopped at various little bungalows, built on tiny plots of land a direct result of land distribution, to inquire about the house owner and ask if someone had his contact number; no one did!

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Curraghbridge House, behind the locked gate, in the distance

I was by now growing frustrated that Andrew hadn’t made contact before our arrival, but the sun was out and this was Ireland, where there is little sense of hurry! At one such stop I did a double take, for the oldish chap was wearing what my somewhat distant father would have worn when gardening – a pair of dun coloured corduroy trousers sitting high on the waist with a piece of bailer twine to keep them up, and turn-ups A rather well-worn shirt of the same sort of grubby colour and muddy shoes completed the look, that of the care-worn Irish male. We saw a similar look the following day, passing through Kilrush. It was market day and, in addition to the food stalls laid out up and down the High Street, a group of men were hanging around outside the S. O’Ouibir Pub with a collection of dubious looking horses and ponies.

Limerick 12 Kilrush 2

We had driven along the north banks of the Shannon estuary and eventually had lunch at Kilkee on the Atlantic Ocean. We were blessed with gorgeous weather, completely contrary to the expected rain, and eventually paddled in the sea at Spanish Point.

Limerick 2

We never got onto the land or into the house of Curraghbridge but knowing it’s there, this family seat, and its importance in my history, made this trip very worthwhile. (Note 3)

Richard 29th June 2018

Note 1         The city rather downplays its obvious connection to the word limerick as a form of nonsense verse, made particularly popular by Edward Lear, which are rather rare today. The reason for the connection is lost in time!! It’s ‘ a jingle, now usually epigrammatic (short poem ending in a witty or ingenious turn of thought), and frequently indecent, consisting of five lines.’ Here’s an example from Anita V: “An infatuated man from Dover, was left by his imaginary lover. He pulled at his hair, in sheer despair, forgetting his wig was his cover.” And of course we know them as nursery rhymes. For example: “Hickory, dickory, dock, The mouse ran up the clock. The clock struck one, And down he run, Hickory, dickory, dock.”

Note 2         These troops continued to serve King James as he planned and then aborted an invasion of England. Lord Lucan was himself killed in the Battle of Landen in 1693; he was aged 33.

Note 3         Sarah had nine daughters and died shortly after the arrival of the last, aged just 39. Her husband Francis married again and, eventually, produced an heir. Unable to inherit anything from the family estate, well, apart from their mother’s portrait, all the girls emigrated to New Zealand apart from one who went to the USA.

Note 4         Limerick hit the headlines again in 1996 when Frank McCourt published his story ‘Angela’s Ashes’ about growing up in the poverty and deprivation that was Limerick in the 1930s. It’s been suggested that 60% of his account was fabricated and embellished but I know how difficult I find it to remember last year let alone sixty years ago so I would sympathise if it was the case!


PC 126 Brexit* and …… Racism

My personal view ……. picking and choosing the bits I understand ……. from an ever-changing scenario!!

After a number of false starts (note 1) the people of Britain joined the European Union in 1973; a 1975 referendum confirmed the nation’s wish to remain a member by 67%. Wind the clock forward 41 years to 2016, when the then Prime Minster, David Cameron, honoured his manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on Britain’s continuing membership. It seemed they walked into a disaster of their own making; confident of the result, the Government’s campaign to stay in was negative, rather than positive, and I reflected at the time the language of the postal campaign was of a sixth form debating society, not worthy of an organisation with the collective intellectual weight of the nation!! So on 23rd June we voted on whether to stay in or leave.

‘Take back control of our institutions; immigration and our future!’ was the message that screamed from the billboards across the country. The bogeyman was the potential, at some stage in the distant future, for Europe to develop into some socialist utopia, a Federal States of Europe, which I guess is a real anathema to most Brits; wave that flag and everyone will vote ‘out’. But today there are other issues. For those of you who live outside of Europe in other parts of the world, you may not know that EU citizens have freedom to work and live wherever they want to within its borders. For instance the Polish population in Britain, historically around 200,000 since the Second World War, has grown by just under a million since Poland joined the EU as its workers flooded in, armed with a great work ethic. Look for a plumber or builder, chances are they are Polish. More recently the Romanians, who joined the EU in 2007 but who had unrestricted access in 2014, have become the second-biggest non-British nationality living and working here. A section of society complains that these people ‘take our jobs’ – so voted ‘out’.

For those of us who believe it was better to stay in, ‘better the devil you know that the devil you don’t’, and for all its many faults (see note 2) believe it has been good for Britain, the result was like awakening in a nightmare – except this was real. I simply could not believe it – 52% voted to leave, although I was pleased Brighton & Hove was in the Remain camp. Sadly 69% of people over 65 voted to leave and whilst I fit into that category it’s only by age, not by either head or heart. Hoist with his own petard, Cameron resigned, ushering in the uncertain rule of Theresa May who had the unenviable task of implementing a policy she didn’t vote for. ‘Brexit is Brexit’. A headline oft repeated but never fully explained, because one senses that no one knows!!

‘Bring back control of our borders’. There was some very odd voting during the referendum. In Sunderland, in the North East of the country, they voted to leave despite the whole local economy being rescued from its past ship building days by Japanese car manufacturers, giving them an entry into other European countries tariff-free. Made in post-Brexit Britain cars will probably be subject to an import tax if sold into the EU. So it’s possible that manufacturing plants will move to mainland Europe. Cornwall, which as a deprived region was eligible for grants to improve its local economy, has been allocated £2.5bn between 2000 and 2020, yet voted to leave!! Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

There is, in my view, another more odious aspect to those who voted ‘no’. They imagined that, in addition to the repatriation of millions of European citizens who live and work here, other ‘migrants’ would be forced out too. The other day someone said to me: ‘you know, lots of the Muslims will have to go too.’ I was too shocked to respond properly given the individual was educated and worldly. Britain has been subjected to immigration for ever. As a member of the Commonwealth we have accepted thousands of immigrants. For instance, when India and Pakistan were established in 1947, Anglo-Indians were expelled and settled here, just as Asian Indians did when expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin; the Commonwealth mother country opened its doors.

Recent newspaper reports have highlighted a common problem with immigrants. Despite living here for decades, thousands of immigrants don’t speak English, content to settle within their own established communities. Gradually that area becomes more like the country where the people came from, where they were born. ‘Good grief! They even allow Mosques to be built!’ But when we British expanded our empire, we built churches …… and if the ‘natives’ didn’t speak English we simply spoke louder. Ah! The circle of hypocrisy! Whilst every reasonable individual would, I suspect, like everyone to assimilate and learn English, the fact is we have large sections of some of our cities inhabited by those of Indian and Pakistani descent, and also little enclaves of Portuguese, areas of north London predominately Jewish, our French friends in ‘Petty France’. You can’t force people to be tolerant, but we do have a very multicultural society in Britain and you can’t put that particular genie back in the bottle, Brexit or no Brexit.

The comment about Muslims could equally have been made about Hindus or other religions but the visibility of head-scarfed or burka-clad female Muslims singles them out as being different. It’s not helped that Islam has been hijacked by extremists and the very wrong sort of PR specialists. Could it be that Islam is probably where Christianity was 600 years ago? But this issue has nothing to do with Brexit!!

Richard 15th June 2018

 *Brexit is horrible shorthand for ‘Britain exiting the EU’.

Note 1.        Our entry was opposed by France’s President Charles de Gaulle, but he resigned in 1969, making our application more likely to be accepted.

Note 2.        I have two real hates about the EU. One is the historic fact it has two geographic locations where its Parliament sits, one in Brussels and one in Strasbourg. Every six months or so the MEPs and their staff decamp from Brussels to Strasbourg. The reason for this doubling of the cost was France’s insistence that the ‘European’ Parliament be in French soil. So a costly fudge was made. The second one, which people seem to accept, is that the audit of the EU’s finances is never completed, giving reign to wastage, potential corruption, misappropriate use of funds …… and no one is accountable!

PC 125 Day


“It’s been a hard day’s night, and I been (sic) working like a dog …..” sang The Beatles in 1964 and having scribbled PC 124 about ‘night’ it was the most obvious thing to pull together something about ‘day’ for my next blog.

I guess we have all been here? Eyes open, looking at the blackness of the night around one and then, gradually, becoming aware that there is an infinitesimal lightening, the darkness is lifting, objects have shape and meaning, the sky is discernible …….. dawn is breaking. That hour before sunrise is magical for those of us lucky enough to be up and out; sort of allows you to own the day that’s coming. ‘Day’ – the time during which the sun is above the horizon; the time it takes for the earth to revolve once on its axis; but the ‘Solar Day’ is defined as from noon to noon – go figure that!

Often playing around inside my skull is the song ‘Let the sunshine in!’ from the musical Hair. I never saw the show on stage but I am sure we can all identify with those lyrics. Many years ago I visited Osborne House, the summer palace of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert situated on the Isle of Wight on our south coast. The mirrored shutters in one of the state rooms were a very clever idea and I replicated them here in our apartment in Amber House. Wooden shutters are good insulators and it’s a joy to open them on a sunny morning and ‘let the sun shine in!’ The large windows face due East so facing the direction of sunrise ……. well, not quite true and actually only twice in the year, on the equatorial equinoxes. As summer arrives, the sun rises further and further to the north, until at the summer equinox it’s rising almost due North East! Conversely on the winter equinox it’s well down into the South East; almost 90º difference.

You may have read PC 45 about our trip in 2015 up into Alaska. On the longest day we were in Dawson City, preparing to drive further north to Eagle.

Sunset The Longest Day 2015

This was sunset (!) at 0125 on 20th June

Did you see that 2002 film Insomnia with Al Pacino playing a detective sent to a small Alaskan town to investigate a teenager murder? He has trouble sleeping, due to the almost endless daylight in the summer at that latitude. We had no such trouble but it is a weird thing, living in constant daylight. It seems the body needs that rhythm of awake and asleep/day and night.

And these celestial moments define so much for us. Hands up who hasn’t taken endless photographs of magnificent sunrises and fabulous sunsets?

sunrise Portland

Sunrise over Portland Harbour, Dorset


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Sunset in Hove

The worship of the sun has been a constant feature of man’s existence, for we would not be here without its light and warmth. In the UK we have the 4m high Sarsen stones forming Stonehenge in Wiltshire where, on the summer solstice, the rising sun lines up with particular stones; Druids celebrate. Did you read of the alternative idea, that actually it was used at sunset on the winter solstice, as that signified the beginning of longer days, warmer days, days for sowing crops? You’ve heard the term ‘the sun shot’ probably; the altitude of the sun relative to the horizon can be used in navigation to determine your latitude, providing you know the time accurately.

When you know something to be true, it’s sort of difficult to imagine it otherwise! In PC 120 Virgins I mentioned that in biblical times it was not understood that both man and woman were needed for procreation, something we could not comprehend now. Similarly, it wasn’t until the C16th that it was proved, by a Polish mathematician called Copernicus, that the sun is the centre of our universe, and not the earth! And you can see why – we sense the sun rises and sets and don’t sense that the earth spins on its axis.

We get used to the way it is and hardly question it. The time it takes for the earth to complete its orbit of the sun is 365 days. Yes! Of course! Well, actually it orbits a common centre of gravity, pulled and pushed a little by other planets, but ‘around the sun’ works better huh? And this takes 365.256 or 365.243 days ……. so every four years working, with the Gregorian calendar, we add on an extra day, February 29th . Folk lore in Britain says that’s the day a woman can ask a man to marry them, as it was a man’s right on every other day of the year; post-Harvey Weinstein that may change?

The sun defines our days but in Britain it can be a rare occurrence, this ‘sunshine’. Here our days are often cloudy, misty or sometimes foggy, the latter so disruptive if travelling but magical if just contemplating life. Without sunlight life would not exist, right? Crops wouldn’t grow; they use photosynthesis to convert the light energy into chemical energy which fuels the organism’s activities. Oxygen is produced as a by-product and this maintains sufficient levels in our atmosphere for life. But recently the Planet Earth series has shown life in a multitude of forms living in the complete darkness at the bottom of the oceans, at pressures that would crush a human.

We have hard days, good days, bad days, birth days, fun days, sad days, ‘Go ahead, make my day’ times (Clint Eastwood in Sudden Impact (1983), reinforced with his .44 Magnum), POETS’ Days (‘Piss Off Early Tomorrow’s Saturday’ – often used at work on a Friday), and the Sunday Times series ‘A Life in The Day’ where well-known individuals describe a typical day. The day, this 24 hour period when we work, rest and play, can also be an analogy for life itself, the span of our lives. This John Ellerton hymn is often sung at funerals; this is the first verse (read the rest please!)

‘The day Thou gavest Lord is ended,

The darkness falls at Thy behest;

To Thee our morning hymns ascended,

Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.’


Enjoy your day!

Richard 3rd June 2018