The Book of Me: Prompt 7 – Grandparents

I’ve decided that Prompt 7 of the Book of Me, Written by You series will be largely a private post, partly because I’ve written on this topic before, and partly because I want to draw out further nuances with my family alone. Julie provided us with these dot points for discussion:

What were their names?
Where were they from?
Were they related? – Cousins perhaps
Where were they born, another Country or state/area?
What did they do?
Did you know them?
What was your relationship with them?
If you didn’t know them have you researched about them?

My maternal grandparents (top row) and my paternal grandparents as young people (bottom row)

My maternal grandparents (top row) and my paternal grandparents as young people (bottom row)

Over the last few years I’ve often posted on my grandparents, especially those who lived next door to us. I was pretty lucky as I knew three of my grandparents into my teens or early adulthood and while my maternal grandmother died youngish, I still have faint, fond memories of her. Sometimes I wondered if they were figments of my imagination but on further discussion with my mother it turns out that I had indeed remembered the stories correctly even though Grandma died before I turned four. Her photo was always on display in my parents’ bedroom too, so it always seemed she was part of my life.

I wonder how many people are fortunate enough to know their grandparents well. Certainly in Darwin’s transient population many children grow up seeing their grandparents only a couple of times a year, or more rarely. Our grandchildren are among the fortunate few who have their “oldies” on tap.

So a very brief synopsis of my grandparents’ origins:

Irish Catholic  +  formerly Methodist, 2nd/3rd generation Queenslander (Scottish/English background)

2nd/3rd generation Queenslander ex-Catholic (Irish-German background) + Scottish Presbyterian.

Grandparents origins

Can you see there might be potential for religious and national tensions there? There is a common thread among the men, though, with the railway being the link.

Origins Great grandparents

I thought I’d put this together in a graph as it makes it more visual, and then because I couldn’t leave well enough alone, I also drew out their ethnic background.

You might want to read my earlier stories about my two grandfathers Denis Kunkel and James McSherry.  I haven’t written as much about my grandmothers, Catherine Kunkel and Laura Melvin, but I did write about Laura’s sister, Emily, who served as a de facto grandmother to me in my childhood.

I also wrote about my grandparents as part of the Fab Feb Photo Collage, another reason for not duplicating what I’ve written. And no, nary a cousin or relation among them…one of the advantages of all that migration perhaps. Even though I knew each of them I’ve also done a lot of research on them over the years.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: 1 Feb – Cuddles and Maccas

4 x 7UP collageThis little photo is my favourite from all my baby photos though I’m not entirely sure why. I guess I just like the fact that I looked cuddled up tight in my rug, nursed by my Dad, and wearing either his hat or my Grandad’s. Like many newly-weds my parents initially lived with parents until some money could be saved for a house. I’ve talked before about how my grandparents were our neighbours and when this photo was taken our house next door would have already been under construction.

SCAN0983In the photo I’m only six months old and we’re in the gateway of what would later become something of a treasured space for me – underneath my grandparents’ house. Queenslanders, as these old houses are known, are famous for being up on wooden stilts to provide fresh circulating breezes, protection from floods (where that’s an issue) and a handy workspace out of the weather. Just to the right of the photo was the tank stand providing fresh rain water for hair washing (makes it softer).

My grandfather's old Austin car, sold before I was born.

My grandfather’s old Austin car, sold before I was born.

To the left of the gate was the space which had once served as the garage for my grandfather’s old Austin car. That always seemed a bit exotic to me, given we had no car until I was nineteen.

Tucked away towards the back of the space (near the tar-painted wooden battens which framed the area) were old stone jars with straw cladding. Over the decades these would become collectibles and worth a bit of money so it’s no surprise that in my grandmother’s old age, they suddenly disappeared one day, after the passing visit of a second-hand dealer. To the right through the gate was the laundry with big concrete tubs and adjacent to that, at right angles, was my grandfather’s work bench where he would re-sole shoes, sharpen tools or do whatever grandfathers do in such places.

But the most important focus for me in that space was the vice on my Grandad’s bench.

The Qld nut tree in the back yard, and kookaburras on the clothes line -they would arrive for a piece of meat.

The Qld nut tree in the back yard, and kookaburras on the clothes line -they would arrive for a piece of meat.

Fab Feb imageIn the back yard of our new home stood a Queensland (Qld) nut tree. It was so tall that I can only assume that it may have already been there before our new house was built. One of the joys of my childhood was clamping a delicious Queensland nut in Grandad’s vice and slowly tightening it until it cracked ever so gently –you didn’t want to smash the delicious nut inside. Family Hx writing challengeAs I grew older I was allowed to also crack the nuts with a hammer, which meant finding just the right dip in the concrete near the laundry, and again giving it just the right strength of a wallop. I remember once when my 2nd cousins were visiting from Sydney that we sat under the tank stand making mud pies with Qld nut fillings. Just imagine the indulgence of wasting one of the most expensive types of nuts in childhood play like that….I’m surprised I could restrain myself from eating the nuts!

These days the humble Qld nut has been remarketed as the Macadamia and is available world-wide. They’re still super-delectable but there’s something very special about memories of being able to eat them whenever you wanted, fresh from where they’d fallen on the grass.

Both of us look pretty tickled with our new home.

Both of us look pretty tickled with our new home.