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.
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.
Both 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!