I was born in Sussex, England but in my eyes, I have Northern Irish blood flowing through my veins and I am incredibly proud of this.
Mum was born in County Fermanagh and moved around a great deal as her father was a policeman. I didn’t know him terribly well as he died when I was very young. My grandmother though, Mum’s mum, was a force to be reckoned with. She came from a family of 13 and had quickly learnt the art of survival! I loved listening to tales from her childhood – they were always highly amusing, but I also loved listening to her talk passionately about education. Even though she was born in 1913, she was a true believer in the power of women and trained to become a nurse. She believed that learning and education gave everyone, especially women, the keys to a kingdom that they would otherwise not possess. I’m sure that is why her three children and her granddaughter became teachers! When she came over to visit, she would drill me on times tables and talk to me about school. She showed such interest that I loved talking to her about it and I truly wanted to make her proud.
Dad was born in County Down and as I have mentioned in previous posts, his father was a bin man and his mother was a cleaner. Granny said she was never quite sure where dad came from, because he was incredibly intelligent and succeeded at whatever he put his hand to. Dad was always very close to his mum but he never forgave his dad for not letting him join the RAF when he was 16. At the age of 18, without telling his mum or dad, he signed up and spent the next ten years moving from airbase to airbase all around the world.
When I was 14, we moved to Northern Ireland, as his mum (my granny) was very unwell. We moved near to them and over the next 9 years that I remained there, I became incredibly close to all my grandparents. They gave me a sense of belonging that I never felt when I was apart from them. I struggled being the new girl with the English accent at school in Belfast, but being with them reminded me of my roots. I spent a lot of time at Granny and Granda’s and there were always hundreds of visitors – cousin Graham, cousin Billy, cousin Margaret (you get the picture) and I loved it. I had roots that joined with all these people.
When I was 23, I moved back to England and the day after I met my husband. I settled here and have grown strong roots back in the County that I was born in. I am incredibly proud of my Northern Irish roots though and wanted to celebrate this with my choice of flag for my #GlobalBrewEdIsolation video. The problem was though, that flags mean such a lot in Northern Ireland and as such can be incredibly contentious. So I thought back to the lesson I learnt from my Granda after he had passed away. At some funerals in Ireland, flags can be draped over coffins but he refused to have one. He didn’t want to offend anyone with his choice of flag and I didn’t either. So eventually, I chose to have the Union Jack on my video because my roots are now firmly planted in the South Coast of England.
I learnt such a lot thanks to my wonderful grandparents – education is all important, always include and never exclude and in a world where you can be anything – be kind! Sadly, my grandparents and my dad have all passed on. I miss them desperately but I know that their legacy lives on and I am so grateful that I was able to spend as much time with them as I did.