Monthly Archives: June 2014

Creative legacies

Today we went to the allotment to catch up on what’s been happening while we were away. We returned home with a harvest of green beans from the poly tunnel, peas and pink gooseberries, plus some freshly dug new potatoes. Some for eating now, and some to be preserved or frozen for later.

It feels a bit similar returning home after our week in Ireland. I have gathered a collection of experiences, photos and lots of information to sort and process, and decide how to use. In addition when I arrived home there were two books waiting which I had previously ordered. One is a second hand book about the architecture of Belfast by Paul Larmour. It includes photographs of many of the buildings designed by my 3x great grandfather, Thomas Jackson, some of which I saw on our trip.

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The other book is a collection of letters written to Anne O’Brien (nee Greeves) my 3x great aunt, who emigrated to Philadelphia in 1818. It is called “Them Wild Woods” edited by Bill Jackson. Many of the letters are written by Anne’s father John Greeves and her mother Margaret, my 4x great grandparents, and Thomas Greeves, her brother and my 3x great grandfather.

20140629-223021.jpgBoth the books are fascinating in their different ways, and have left me reflecting on the different legacies my ancestors have left. I have seen the legacy of my great-great-great grandfather Jackson in the houses and buildings he designed, many of which are still being used in Belfast today. Some have been demolished but bricks and mortar often outlive their creators.
The other legacy might appear much more transient, hand written letters on paper, recording apparently trivial details of domestic life in the early 19th century. These bits of paper travelled across the Atlantic, and have been preserved by family members. The wealth of detail and insight into their lives, their losses and their loves, is fascinating, and has lasted as long as the city buildings.

Makes me think we should never underestimate the ongoing power of art and creativity, whether it is a grand architectural design, or simple words in a letter to a loved one. It could be what future generations remember us by!

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Wicklow hills and Haughton ancestors

Writing this post to the sound of pouring rain outside our hotel window, the wonderful spell of sunny dry weather finally broke this afternoon.
This morning we drove south from Dublin towards the Wicklow mountains, stopping off at the grand Powerscourt Estate to look around the gardens. The setting is beautiful with views to Grand Sugar Loaf mountain, and the roses were stunning. A pleasant coffee on the terrace was followed by a little shopping.

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Then we drove on into the Wicklow mountains to Glendalough, a monastic settlement founded by St Kevin in the 6th century. We sat for a while absorbing the peace of the Upper lake.

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The first drops of rain were falling as we set off again. This time in search of more of my family history. My paternal grand mother was a Haughton. Her father Thomas Haughton was born in Co Kildare at Athy, where he inherited a flour mill which had been built by his Grandfather Alfred Haughton. We drove across the bridge, catching a glimpse of the river Barrow and the castle, in spite of heavy rain and traffic. This picture from Wikipedia shows it in a better light!

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On the quest for even older Haughton family members we drove to the old quaker settlement of Ballitore. A little adventure in the rain took us across a field of long grass to find the Quaker burial ground. Hidden behind old stone walls with a narrow entrance many of the graves are unmarked, or covered. It is here that my 5x great grandfather Benjamin Haughton (1707 – 1777) is buried. We spent some time in the wet searching the graves which were visible, but could only find more recent Haughtons. However the Quaker meeting house he must have attended is still in the village.

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Dublin day

For our one full day in Dublin we decided not to visit attractions with large entrance fees, or potentially long queues. So the morning began in the (free) National Museum of Archaeology. What treasure! The collection of many hoards of gold recovered from Irish bogs, much dating from up to 2000 years BC, was stunning. Equally moving but in a different way were the amazingly preserved bog bodies of men from the first millennia BC. They were probably placed there as some sort of sacrificial offering – I found the hands and hair particularly touching and so personal.

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We took the sightseeing bus through the city and by chance discovered an exhibition (free) of beautiful glass work by Dale Chihuly on the theme of James Joyce ‘s “Ulysses”, which was a bonus. Next door was the Chester Beatty Library (free) of rare, exquisitely bound and illustrated manuscripts and books.

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Then the bus ride took us to a more sobering venue, Kilmainham gaol. Here we learnt a lot about the more recent history of Ireland, in all its tragedy, and I found it very moving.

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The traffic at this point was not moving! But we spent the “rush” hour on the bus with very entertaining commentary from the tour guide as we moved slowly through a city of so many influential people – politicians, philosophers, scientists, thinkers, artists, writers, and musicians, passing the house of one such, Oscar Wilde, on our route back to the hotel.

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History and other traditions

This morning we stepped back in time 5000 years, visiting the amazing Neolithic passage tomb at Newgrange in the Boyne valley. Older than Stonehenge and the pyramids, built as a burial chamber and also to celebrate the winter solstice. To me it felt more about life than death. We experienced the magic of how sunlight shines into the inner chamber once a year, as the seasons turn and the days begin to get longer. The stones, in side and out, have amazing carved designs. They look like “Celtic” designs but were a couple of thousand years before the first Celts invaded Ireland.
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Driving the lanes of the Boyne valley we explored more history, not quite so old, stopping at Monasterboice with its 10th century high stone crosses depicting biblical scenes, and climbing the Hill of Slane where St Patrick in 433 AD lit an Easter fire and the pagan king converted to Christianity.

20140623-220023.jpgArriving in Dublin later we joined the crowds in Temple Bar, where the pubs and restaurants were filled with musicians playing traditional Irish music. There we enjoyed another Irish tradition with our meal….

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Returning south

Today we had a rest from family history. Travelling back from our overnight stay in Coleraine, we bypassed Belfast, and drove to the beautiful gardens of Mount Stewart on the Ards Peninsular. Wonderful colours in the formal gardens, and spectacular views over Strangford Lough to the Mountains of Mourne.

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We took the little ferry at the bottom of the lough and continued on a long a coastline of empty beaches, and castles which popped up at the side of the road.

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We took the high road over the back of the Mourne mountains down to Rostrevor, and then on to the south, crossing the border back into the Republic.

Castles and coastland

No time and no Internet last night so I am playing catch up with our travels…
Saturday morning we set off early, heading out of Belfast centre towards the eastern suburbs.

20140622-205257.jpgOur first stop was to view a statue called “The Searcher” in tribute to CS Lewis. He grew up in East Belfast, and lived across the road from another member of my family, Arthur Greeves, my grandfather’s first cousin. Lewis and Arthur Greeves remained lifelong friends, and Lewis’s letters to Arthur have been published as “They stand together”

20140622-205424.jpgLewis’s childhood home “LittleLea” is privately owned and not visible from the road, and Arthur’s house, known as Bernagh, is now demolished. But we drove past where it had stood. We then set about finding houses occupied by various members of the Greeves family which I knew were in the same area of Belfast, but I just had their names, Lismachen, Altona, and Tweskard. From the wonders of google maps I thought I knew where Lismachen was, and feeling a bit daring we turned into an unmarked driveway and drove up through a park like garden to the front of the house. It looked to be divided into apartments, and possibly some offices now. But I was able to take a photo and then we drove back down the drive before anyone asked us what we were doing! Altona turned out to be large house, estate even, along the road from Lismachen. This time there was no open drive way, it was firmly gated. A little further on we found a development of houses called Tweskard park, which I guess is where the original Tweskard house once stood.

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20140622-205606.jpgFeeling a bit stunned at the obvious size of these family houses, we decided we had done enough family history, and set off north from Belfast. We drove through the Glens of Antrim, to the beautiful hidden and unspoilt Antrim coast, with views across to Scotland. White sand, turquoise sea and the winding scenic road was lined with hedgerows of wild fuchsia – just glorious.

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20140622-210456.jpgThen on to the World Heritage site of the Giants Causeway. Amazing though it is I didn’t find it as beautiful as the earlier beaches, but fascinating to see the convergence of coaches carrying hundreds of tourists from all corners of the globe!

20140622-210746.jpgOur last stop on this leg of our journeying was the romantic ruin of Duluce Castle, said to be the inspiration for the castle of Cair Paravel in the Narnia stories. We loved the Antrim coast, and can understand why CS Lewis was inspired by its landscapes.

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Great grand tour

After a good breakfast we left our bed and breakfast in Newry and drove a short distance to Bessbrook. This was built as a model Quaker village, to provide work, homes and education around a linen mill. The linen mill workers cottages and a school around the green still remain. We were looking for a house known as Mount Caulfield which was where my Great-great Grandparents John and Elizabeth Greeves, who were in the linen manufacturing business, spent the first few yeas of their married life. We found it, but looking in a far worse state of repair than the workers cottages.

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20140620-200344.jpgThen we moved on following the route of the Newry Canal, to the small town of Gilford. This was where, in 1881, my 3x great grandfather William Uprichard was living in Bannvale House. We found the house, but no longer a private residence – it now houses the local Social Services and Health Trust.

20140620-202044.jpgIn Portadown we found the home of my Great grandparents, Thomas Jackson and Gilbertina Newsome Greeves. Thomas had this house built in 1906, and my father visited it many times in his youth. It was, and still is, called Fairacre.

20140620-212746.jpgA few miles further, down little country lanes, we came to a different kind of house. This is the beautiful Friends Meeting House at Moyallan, where in 1789 my 4x great grandparents, John Greeves and Margaret Sinton were married. We were lucky enough to be able to see inside this lovely old meeting house, very plain, and still very much in use today.

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20140620-203305.jpgOur tour continued as we now travelled towards Dungannon in Co Tyrone, to find another Friends Meeting House at Grange. Hidden down country lanes this is one of the oldest Quaker Meeting Houses dating from 1660, still in use, and this where several of my father’s ancestors are buried. Amongst many other Greeves headstones in this amazingly peaceful place, we found the graves of my 4x great grandparents John and Margaret Greeves, and my 3x great grandparents, Thomas and Rachel Greeves. In fact the graves where I am standing all bear the name of Greeves.

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20140620-205540.jpgNext we headed along the motorway towards Belfast, stopping briefly in Lisburn to visit the Linen Museum. I was excited to find a Linen Stamp bearing the name of James Christy of Moyallan – my 6x great grandfather – who was a linen bleacher.

20140620-210511.jpgArriving in Belfast late afternoon there was still one last important building we wanted to find. My great grandfather Thomas Jackson Greeves was named after his grandfather Thomas Jackson. Thomas Jackson, my 3x great grandfather and originally from Waterford, became a prestigious Belfast architect who, amongst many other buildings, designed the beautiful church of St Malachy in Alfred Street. A huge contrast to the simple meeting houses we had visited earlier, but another beautiful and peaceful building, with a wow ceiling! A lovely place to sit and contemplate a very busy day.

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A very long post, but we covered a lot of ground!!