Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mini-reunion, and Frank Crowl

There hasn't been much happening on this blog recently, nevertheless I haven't forgotten about it!

We had a mini-family reunion in Mosgiel for Paul Stokes' 60th birthday some months after the actual event: it was to have been in September (which was still late) but the Christchurch earthquake interrupted Mary Fraher's preparations, as well as the fact that she got swine flu in that month. It finally took place in November, with a smaller number of people than originally intended. It was still a good catch-up, and invariably on these occasions bits and pieces of family history and small events from our various lives are shared.

On another tack, I received an email the other day from the Canadian, Alan McGowan, a chess player and chess historian who writes for a magazine called Chess Scotland. Alan and I had had some conversation on an earlier occasion about my father and chess, but this time he was alerting me to an online article that Edward Winter, a chess historian, had uploaded. It included the myth that Frank Crowl had been born in Melborne and brought up in Shanghai - where he learnt chess. There was a statement towards the end saying that he hadn't been born in Melborne, but Surrey, England.

I wrote to Edward and told him about the fact that my father had grown up in London, attested to by his brother, Reg. Edward came back wondering if I knew my father's birth date, (he knew the year, 1902) as it wasn't mentioned in any of the information he had. I discovered it wasn't on the family tree, which surprised me, and I thought I didn't have it.

This morning I woke up and thought: I've got my parents' marriage certificate; the birthdate will be on there. Nope, it wasn't, only the fact that my father was 40 when he married, in 1942. Searched through the various papers in the old tin box that such stuff has been kept in for as long as I can remember, and father's birth certificate. Born on the 24th August, 1902, in the registration district of St Pancras, with the sub-district of Kentish Town. I have no idea why I haven't put this information on the family tree before....just one of those things!

Furthermore, on the birth certificate, it says that his name is Frank, rather than Francis, which I'd assumed.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

My Memories of Mum

The following is a tribute to Monica Stokes from her daughter, Mary (Fraher). It was read at the funeral by Mary's daughter, Deborah.

One of my earliest childhood memories is sitting with Mum while she read me a book about an adopted baby. I think the book was called Chosen Baby and it was a story about Mr and Mrs Brown who had chosen a special baby. I can still vividly see in my mind the pictures in this book and how proud and special I felt to be a ‘chosen’ baby.

I can’t remember how old I was when Mum gave me her autograph book. In the front cover she had written:

Not flesh of my flesh
Nor bone of my bone
But still miraculously my own
Never forget for a single minute
You didn’t grow under my heart
But in it.

I have never thought of Mum as anything else but Mum. She was not my adopted mother. She was Mum. I never felt anything other than flesh of her flesh, blood of her blood.

Mum provided us all with a warm and happy home. She was always there when I got home from school. Friends were always made to feel welcome and there was always plenty of food to be shared around. In fact I’m quite sure that a lot of friends just showed up for the home baking, which never seemed to run out.

Mum was always willing to help out others where ever and when ever there was a need. It wasn’t at all unusual for us to have extra kids staying. She helped out when other mums needed a break, or were unwell, or were having more babies. We didn’t have a large home but there was always room for one or two more.

Mum loved going on our annual two-week holiday, especially to a small crib at Millers Flat. The little Morris 8 would be loaded up to the gunnels, Paul and I sitting on a pile of bedding so high that our heads almost touched the roof. Mum just loved those holidays at Millers Flat – the sunshine, the fresh air, the daily trips to the swimming pool, the little creek where we spent a lot of time, the hammock, the safe hanging in the willow tree, the rainwater tank which supplied us with water for cooking, washing and cleaning teeth. They were great holidays. Not even the long drop detracted from those holidays. We went to different places from time to time, but Millers Flat was always Mum’s favourite place.

For as long as I can remember Mum was involved in church and Parish activities. For many years she was an active member of the Women’s League. She would bake, bake and bake some more for school fetes. The Catholic Church was very special to her. She wasn’t simply a Catholic. She lived her faith day in and day out and was a great example to everyone who she came in touch with.

She was a people person. She loved talking to people and could while away the hours quite happily chatting to friends and family. When Aunty Flo came to stay with us I’m sure she would be creeping into bed not long before us kids were up and about. The two of them would sit in the kitchen and talk the night away. I also have very fond memories of Mum and her good friend Kathryn Waddell together. There was always so much laughter when those two got together.

Mum, you were the best mother a child could wish for. You were the best wife a husband could wish for. Rest in peace.

Monday, August 30, 2010

More tributes to Monica Stokes

John Stokes wrote the following paragraphs, and is happy for me to put them on the blog. I read them out on his behalf at the funeral today.

1. As teenagers, Mark Anngow and I were best mates and we used to gather at our place to do teenage boy things with other boys. On this particular day were playing 3 card brag in my room when Mum walked past, saw what we were doing, and went away to get the paper money to join us. Which she did. With her quiet spoken, gentle way she proceeded to give the know-all boys a valuable, and valued, lesson in not taking anyone for granted - she cleaned us out in very short order!! I had, of course, forgotten that Mum was a very skilled card player who had a killer instinct; she taught me how to play, and to win with a self effacing good humour. More importantly, she could lose with a dignity that eludes me to this day - at Euchre, 500 and crib. Crib became a favourite while I was still living at home. I also recollect that, by and large, it was our place my friends and I would repair to after a hard day at school... until Mark got his driver’s license and an old Austin Cambridge, and school became something to avoid....

2. Just to hark back to the quiet, gentle spoken woman everyone remembers, I can remember a time when she was, in fact, neither....

I had drunk a little more than was good for me at a work 'do' on a weeknight in Dunedin and was - not to put too fine a point on it – paralytic. Dad had to drive into Dunedin to pick me up and take me home with inevitable stops on the way. I can't remember too much about the evening but I do recall the morning after when I was going to call in sick - well, I was!! - and Mum came through the door of the sleepout like the sergeant-major of every soldier’s nightmares and read me the Riot Act. Rather sheepishly - with head hung low, I went to work that morning on the same train as Dad - I think!! - who I'm sure looked remarkably smug as he didn't have to say a word about my immature behaviour. It had all been said with an eloquence, brevity and volume that he would never be able to match!

There are many, many more such examples - and I'm sure the girls and Paul have their own particular twists to add, but these two sum up, for me, what Mum was all about; quietly able to work some kind of magic on a teenage boy/young man; providing a stability that was needed and a love that was overt without being cloying. I would not be who I am now without her guiding hand. There were many times when the world’s problems were solved at the sink doing the evening dishes, when teenage heartache became a life lesson without judgment and, later on, during one or two events in my life I could have done without, such support as I was never able to get anywhere else... Mum, you will live in my heart forever and your quiet smile will forever brighten my days....

Monica Stokes

 Most of you will know that Monica Stokes (nee Hannagan) died around three in the morning of Thursday the 26th August, 2010. She would have been 87 in November this year. Her funeral was held at the Mosgiel Catholic Parish Church (in the old Holy Cross college) today.

The following is a tribute that Mike Crowl gave during the Requiem Mass. Two other tributes were given and will be posted here when and if permission is given. 

One of my earliest memories as a child – it must have been between the age of 3 and 4 - is of an evening at Stanley St, in the house where the Hannagan family grew up. Monica and Des lived there for the first year of their marriage [and I grew up there]. They were getting ready for what I guess must have been a fancy dress ball. Monica was dressed up like one of the ‘three little maids from school’ in The Mikado, and having a great time getting ready and putting on special make up. Monica did quite a bit of performing when she was young.

Another early memory is of the third-storey flat in High St that Monica and Des moved into. It was (in fact, still is) a narrow brick building with a fire escape all down the front, where I lost a favourite toy under their couch, and couldn’t seem to get anyone to find it for me (!)

I used to stay with the family sometimes once they moved to Mosgiel, or go away with them on holiday. They often went to the De Courcy’s crib [also known as a 'bach' or holiday home] in Miller’s Flat, or to a crib in Warrington. This was when I was quite young and only Paul and Mary were on the scene. Monica and Des were always great to be with, and were warm and friendly to this odd little boy they were looking after.

One of the lovely things about Monica was her laugh. It was highly infectious. Sometimes even as adults we’d all just sit there laughing uncontrollably because of it. Even when she was lying in the rest home after she’d got Alzheimer’s, when all the talking she could do was a strange little language that she seemed to make up as she went along, or she’d sing odd little snatches of songs (I think to entertain us), that smile would suddenly light up her face, and there’d be a moment when the laugh would bubble up. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t any particular joke, it was as endearing as ever.

Last Saturday Celia and I spent a bit of time with Des, Mary and Barbara [two of Monica's children]. They told us some stories we’d never heard. We found out that when Monica was young she and Flo, Des’s sister, had been very good friends. It was Flo who made sure Monica got introduced to Des - even though she was at that time going out with another young man.

They also told us about a time when Monica was at school, at St Philomena’s. In one sewing class she was with a group of girls who were chatting and not getting on with their work, and the nun came passed, looked at their work, and said, ‘That’s terrible. Do it again!’ The girls carried on talking, didn’t do anything else, and some time later the nun came back, took another look, and said: ‘That’s much better!’

And talking of sewing, we found out that Monica and a group of other ladies used to darn the socks for the seminarians at Holy Cross College. Some years later, Des, Monica and the family were heading north for a wedding, and stopped off near Kaikoura. They were going to stay in a motel, but the local parish priest insisted they stay with him at the Presbytery. Next morning, to Monica’s embarrassment, he just happened to mention during the sermon that there was ‘someone’ in the congregation who used to darn his socks.

We only just found out on Saturday that Monica had had asthma very badly as a child, often to the point where the doctor would be called in the middle of the night to attend to her. She was thought of as a fragile and unwell child, and there were times they thought they might lose her. Apparently Pat would wheel her around in a wheelchair. All the problems with asthma disappeared when she came to live in Mosgiel.

When I heard last week that Monica had died, the first picture that came to mind was that she would now be running through Heaven looking for her family. I could see her racing straight through Mumma’s extensive garden plots – and laughing, of course – and shouting to Mumma to come and find everyone! There’d be Esther and Raymond*, her big sister and brother whom she never even known in this life; there’d be Joyce and Charlie and Doreen, and Terry and Jack; and Des Ryan and Des O’Flaherty – she’d be laughing at the fact that three sisters out of four married men with the same Christian name [Des]. She’d be looking for her mother and father (Nan and Pop as they were to us grandchildren), and suddenly there they’d all be, laughing uncontrollably and shouting and hugging and kissing each other. And standing to one side would be Jesus, with a big grin on his face....and when he finally gets a word in, he embraces her and says, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share the joy that I’ve been preparing for you forever.'

*Esther, the first-born child, died within a few months; Raymond, the third child (after Joyce) died in his fourth year.

The photos come from the front and back covers of the song sheet provided for the funeral.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Goodson siblings

Back in February I posted a picture of the Goodson brothers and sisters which wasn't quite what it seemed.   Here's one of them taken when they were actually all together in the same room rather than in different hemispheres.  

This one was taken at Peter's 70th birthday, in Wicklewood, Norfolk, at my niece and nephew's house. 

The siblings are, from left to right: Celia, Pat, Barbara (they're twins), Richard, Peter, Janet and Mick.  They're in order from the youngest to the oldest. 

Ray De Courcy

On the 27th July, Celia and I went to Ray De Courcy's funeral.   It was held at St Patrick's Basilica in South Dunedin, a church I hadn't been in for many years.   I'd forgotten how lovely it is, and how Italian in style. 

Ray was born in 1923, and was the brother of Tony (also deceased) and Kevin, who was our family's lawyer for many years.    These three brothers were my mother's cousins.   The De Courcy's have their own distinctive version of the Hannagan face - there are similarities to my grandfather and his siblings, just to show that we all came from the same stock, but there's no mistaking the De Courcy side of the family tree.   Check out my grandfather, Charlie, in this photo, and compare it with the one below of Ray.  I'm sorry there's a crease in these two photos; I folded up the hymn sheet before I thought about including the photos here.   If someone can supply me with better ones, all to the good.

The second photo is of Ray's wedding.    Just at the moment, I can't remember his wife's name.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

All the Goodsons

This is a remarkable photo. It's the first time all the Goodson brothers and sisters have been together in one place, for forty years.

Except that it's not quite what it looks like. The five brothers and sisters in the middle - Barbara, Pat, Peter, Mick and Janet, were photographed in England (either in Norfolk or Northampton - I can't remember which at the moment) in the middle of last year sometime.

Celia on the far left, and Richard on the far right, were photographed in New Zealand just before Christmas. Celia took the photo of Richard inside our house. Celia was also photographed inside, but at a different time.

My brother-in-law Peter put all the photos together and the picture above is the result. Ain't technology amazing?

Friday, January 01, 2010

Danny Crowl

The latest arrival in the ever-expanding Hannagan clan - this time another addition to the Crowl wing...and this time another one with the actual surname of Crowl! (His big brother is the only other one.)

The delightful photo shows the two boys: Jacob holding Danny. Their father and mother are Ben (my older son) and Louise.