October 31, 2012

Sepia Saturday #150: Cap and Trade


My Grandfather, born 1888, Downpatrick, Co. Down, Northern Ireland:
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Circa 1911, Joseph Davison, age 23 (on left) Oil Van Driver
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Close-up. That’s a swell couple of caps!
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The same man. He looks rather beaten-down by life, doesn’t he?


POOR JOE

I never met the man,
but I’ve heard all the tales,
of drunken-ness and violence;
no matter now, his fails.

A “bastard”, he was cursed';
he worked an old man’s farm,
his half-brother, was kind—
tried to keep him free of harm.

Where he first met with my gran
I’ll never know, for sure.
It might have been a dance—
that image will endure,

but their married life could never
stand the trial of being poor,
and a dozen mouths to feed
and the booze, that was the cure.

So, it’s not the big surprise,
His picture changed so much,
yet for all his faults and frailties,
His face, my heart, does touch.

Kat Mortensen©2012Creative Commons Licence
Visit the Sepia Saturday blog  for many more fine responses to this prompt:
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51 comments:

  1. I was just thinking earlier that we hadn't seen or heard much of Poetikat lately, and up she pops! Beaten down he may be, but a generous interpretation would be that it's just the way the photographer has caught him (a bit like passport photos do) as it appears to be an 'official' photograph, rather than a family snap. Whatever it is your poem pays eloquent tribute to him, and quite rightly so. As long as the violence didn't extend to his family Life was hard back then.

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    1. Hi Nell!

      Oh yes, she makes an appearance from time to time. She even posted for Hallowe'en on the "Keepsakes" blog.

      That IS a generous interpretation, but I think poverty and alcohol had a good deal to do with the world-weary look. Unfortunately, the violence was felt at home too, from what I understand. Mind you, my Grandmother was said to be one to dish it out, as well.

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  2. Aww, that poem was a sweet tribute to your grandfather! We were all young and carefree once and then life does a number on us! Some just handle it better than others.

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    1. Very true, Teresa. There's a line that you either cross, or you don't. I think he was dealt some bad cards along the way.

      Glad you liked the poem.

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    2. I wonder sometimes how much of what a person does is shaped by what others around them do. For instance, if most of his buddies didn't go to the pub after work, would your granddad? Just and example you know. I like your tribute all the same because we definitely cannot change who our ancestors were. We can only accept them.

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  3. sweet historical piece Kat - dig the pics too!

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    1. Thanks, Ollie! Glad you liked it. Stop by again, or think about joining our group.

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  4. Lovely poem. Alcohol was the bane of many the family in those days. Raising a large family (10 kids?) even with all of our modern conveniences would so difficult - I don't know how they did it.

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    1. Helen, it was actually 12 kids and two parents, so even more stress on him. Those Irish Catholics, they just kept having the children. I can understand on one hand, but in the face of such destitution, some restraint wouldn't have gone amiss.

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  5. It was not only the Irish Catholics having so many kids! Also their Dutch counterparts raised these large families, many of them very much influenced by the local clergy. I don't think we are capable of imagining the circumstances under which these people had to live. Poverty, hard/child labor and booze seemed to be the keywords.
    Your poem is very, very appropriate. Chapeau!

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    1. I agree with you, Peter, and let us not forget the great burden of dealing with war and internal strife! I might have turned to the drink myself!

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  6. The first picture is great, and your poem is a nice tribute.

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  7. A very imaginative post, and sometimes that's all we can do with some photos. I'm curious about the wagon which appears to haul a liquid of some type. Is it milk, water, or even beer?

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    1. Nothing so exciting as all that, Mike! It was oil. I doubt they would have got very far on their rounds, had it been beer!

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  9. Very touching poem. Some of our ancestors appear to have been honorable and admired by all, but then there were the other ones. No doubt they had some great qualities along with contributing to who we are today.

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    1. You make a good point, Christine; we cannot deny, whatever they were, they are part of us, and as such, we have inherited something from them. I'd like to think I took on the good characteristics from this man, my grandfather.

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  10. This is my first introduction to "Poetikat" as Little Nell called you. I've been missing out! I admire those who can frame their words and stories into poetry! Well done!

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    1. Kathy, long before I started this blog, I began with "Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes". That is where I share my poetry, my memoirs, and anything else that crops up in my crazy brain!

      Thank you so much!

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  11. I thought it was a water wagon, then a milk wagon until I read the caption and studied the photo a bit. Nice post Kat. You have many intriguing photos there! :)

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    1. Hi Doug, Not as many as I'd like! It is a strange contraption for carrying around oil, isn't it? I wonder what sort of oil it was? Any ideas?

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  12. Kat; big caps, proud chaps; your poetry is very beautiful, sad. This kind of misery has happened to many families, very hard times for them. Jess was a beautiful lass; fine post.

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    1. Thank you, Titania! So true, isn't it that many families have been touched by these things.

      I have to ask though, who is Jess? :)

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  13. The photo of the oil van is so interesting to study - the harness, the wheels, the oil container, and 2 well-dressed fellows. Wonderful! But the poem is the best. I wish I had your talent - it would be a really neat way to present my family history.

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    1. It is a great photo, isn't it? I was so thrilled when I connected with family, first through Ancestry.com, and then on Facebook, and a cousin I had met back in the 1970s, sent it to me.

      Thank you for the compliment.

      Kat

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  14. I studied the photos for quite some time before I got to your poem. This gave me an insight to the man that I never expected. Tough times indeed for all concerned.

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    1. Hi Bob, It just goes to show you how much life can change us. I think many of our ancestors have these light-hearted early photos, followed by far more grim visages. Shame, isn't it?

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  15. A great lyrical tribute to a man who lived his own way. I agree too that some people weather life's trials and tragedies more easily than others; yes these things to change faces. I will have to study up on some of my late Uncle John who enjoyed his whiskey perhaps too much up until his end. I don't know how you came up with this tribute from hurling, but I was not themati either.

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    1. Well, Pat, I just by-passed the hurling as sport, but I suspect there may have been another sort of "hurling" going on after a few too many trips to the pub!

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  16. Kat, your way with words leaves me envious! You tackled a common human frailty with honesty and dignity.

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    1. Liz, judging by your comment, and posts of yours I have read, there's no need for you to be envious!

      Thank you, nonetheless.

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  17. Nice poem. If he drunk too much and became violent I don't pity him. Maybe the oil van contained lamp oil?

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    1. You might, if you were related to him, but I take your point. Thanks for reading!

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  18. This was a most delightful post and poem! What a great tribute for your grandpa as well. I enjoy your family moments- they are certainly treasures to pull out at will! Enjoy your week Kat!

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    1. Thank you so much, Karen! I do occasionally come back to read the posts, just to remind myself of all those people who came before me.

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  19. What an interesting photo you've got there of your grandfather with the oil van! Quite the treasure indeed!

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    1. Thanks for reading and for the comment, Jana. I appreciate it!

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  20. Wonderful post Kat as usual. I can remember my grandmother who was Irish telling about the old days. She had 3 brothers and her mother and father ran a pub in the old country. My own father was alcoholic and what a dysfunctional family we were. It stopped with this generation thank goodness. Great poem.
    QMM

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    1. Alcohol is a brutal thing, isn't it, QMM? We lost our brother-in-law to it, a couple of years ago. He was only 53.

      You have Irish in you? No wonder we get on so well!

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  21. This is the first time I've come across your Blog and I really enjoyed strolling through it. I LOVE the photo of your Grandfather on the oil van. Such a great quality photo which you are so lucky to have!

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    1. Thank you so much for your very generous and kind comment. I hope you'll come back again. I am very grateful to have these two photos as they are the only ones of my grandfather in existence (as far as I know).

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  22. Just beautiful. Adds a full dimension to the images.

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    1. Thank you. I'm so glad you liked them both.

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  23. Well, you know the saying:
    "Do not judge 'till you walked a mile in a man's shoes"...
    Some seem better equipped to face destiny,
    even when difficult...
    Great post!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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    1. Very true, TB, very true. Thanks!

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  24. You have a great way with words, Kat. Lovable post!

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    1. Thank you so much, Prenter. I'm very glad you liked it!

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  25. Kat, what a stellar entrance into the world of the GeneaBloggers. I just saw the announcement for your blog there this morning.

    Touching post. I can relate.

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    1. Thank you very much, Jacqi! I'm actually late to post a Sepia Saturday entry for this week, but I'm so glad you enjoyed this one. Thanks for following me too; I'll be by soon to reciprocate!

      Kat

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  26. Nice Photos. I love these old pictures. Also, welcome to Geneabloggers.

    Regards, Jim
    Hidden Genealogy Nuggets

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