Recently, my cousin messaged me, saying “I’m leaving for County Cavan, Ireland, today. Would you like me to photograph anything for you?”
Now, County Cavan is where my Great Great Grandparents hailed from prior to seeking a better life in Australia in the 1860s. So, yes, you guessed it. My reply to my cousin was a definite “Yes, everything please!!”
County Cavan has been on my bucket list for a while, but it wasn’t until Mary visited and brought back her photos that my interest was well and truly peaked. She stumbled upon a small town church that could be mistaken for being the Deane family’s private chapel. The stained glass windows are dedicated to various family members and one depicts a scene of a house and garden. Mary found a house that resembled the glass picture and it was built on the same footprint of the original house that our Great Great Grandfather was born and raised. And…to our amazement it is still inhabited by the Deane family.
Upon knocking on the door of this house, Mary and her husband were welcomed inside as long lost relatives, representatives of their long lost son and daughter who were never to return in person. Inside was a framed artist’s impression of the original house where our Great Great Grandfather was born. What would our ancestors say, if they knew that future generations have gone back to Ireland 150 years after they left,to find their roots? Afterall, my Great Great Grandparents, after their marriage, never returned to their homeland. Whether the reasons were financial or other, it is sad that they were never to see their respective families again.
What is also interesting is that my Great Great Grandfather George Deane hailed from a family of very intelligent people. Apart from he and his brother John who came to Australia together, their brothers were all medical doctors, and the next generation showed a pattern of sons becoming doctors also. Although, neither George nor John, chose medical professions, they were both known for their inventive minds and their untrained engineering prowess. They both possessed strong pioneering spirits and left behind a legacy of achievements.
I have also stumbled upon some information about my Great Great Grandparents recently which gives great insight into their charactor as well as how they lived their lives. My Great Great Grandfather was a very forceful character who, apparently, come up with his best ideas during heated discussions. I remember from my own childhood, the many heated discussions that took place around my Grandfather’s kitchen table, between him, my father and uncle. Those sessions were always loud and roudy, but never serious arguments. Moreover, that was their way of discussing the “world”. Perhaps, their sharp and individual minds were inherited from George Deane.
In the writings that I have inherited, George Deane’s granddaughter, Doreen, describes her memories of her grandfather.
“I recall the firm manner, the fine stature and forcefulness of Grandfather Deane and I hold many memories of him – for example – a bearded man, silhouetted against a glowing world – against the hill scape of Mount Elliot – and further off Mount Inkerman beyond, Giru. The sun sinking in the west over the inky black landscape and Grandfather telling stories from Irish folklore, enjoying our fascinated expressions as we sat, the five of us, on the verandah of “Burwood” homestead, looking up at Grandfather and drinking in every word he had to say until the sunset died and all the world was dark. He set the fear of God into many, but I did not fear him at all.”
Doreen wrote the above in a letter to a cousin in Ireland in 1983. That same cousin opened the door to Mary only a few weeks ago. For the recipient of that letter, to learn about a long lost great uncle, was a truly precious thing and I hope that Doreen’s words were received with appreciation. Sadly, Doreen is no longer here to tell her stories. If she was, I would be drinking every word, syllabil and sound, just like she had many years before.
It is such a wonderful thing, to find windows into the lives who have long gone. My Great Great Grandparents were pioneers, who left Ireland for a land that was both harsh and unpredictable, so different to their homeland. They took a great risk, and I can say with certainty that it paid off. Although, I sense from what I have been told, they possessed the tenacity to ensure success anyway. I wish they could be part of our modern world that has become smaller due to communications like the telephone, the computer and the internet. What would they think of modern man’s ability to see and speak to family who live on the other side of the world, at the touch of a computer keyboard? George Deane’s inventive mind would be in overdrive I’m sure.
Although it is nice to visit the beautiful homelands of our ancestors, it is easy to forget why they left in the first place. In the case of George and Harriet Deane, perhaps it was political freedom or to escape the hardships of the potato famine. All I know for sure is that his adventurist spirit brought him to Australia and I am grateful that he did. In doing so, he allowed his family and future generations to prosper in a free world that has remained unblemished by ongoing civil war and religious persecution.