With the so recent celebration of St. Patrick’s Day I am inclined to consider my families rather turbulent relationship with Ireland and the Irish native populous. Being from Scot Presbyterian stock we are historically inclined to be to say the least somewhat anti-Catholic and quite decidedly anti-Finian. These familial grudges, not unlike so called Southern Pride, are inclined to lie deep and are oft difficult to erase.
These particular unfortunate inclinations came to a head in the shape of my great uncle Alexander Edwin Stanley Welford, late Captain Inniskilling Dragoons, whom was quite possibly the worst social and political bigot my lineage would ever produce.
A man who in his later years considered the razor strop to be the arbiter of all things good or bad, terrorized both my father and his brother throughout childhood, adolescence and youth. I remember on one occasion having witnessed my father praying very earnestly in the front pew of our family church, Saint Andrews, Petersham, and asking my mother what on earth could have been caused such obvious desperation. She answered candidly that without doubt he was begging that evil Uncle Alex would remain securely imprisoned behind the gates of hell for all eternity.
Alexander’s particularly virulent animus can be traced to the trenches of the first world war, specifically the period around Easter 1916 when the Dublin insurrection took place. As the senior captain of Inniskilling’s he was seconded to a regiment of dismounted cavalry raised in the province of Leinster, including amongst their number men sympathetic if not supportive towards the revolt. Great Uncle Alex, an unrepentant Presbyterian and Unionist, considered this wholly unacceptable at minimum and treasonous at maximum, taking great pride in the identification and prosecution of any he perceived tainted by such disloyalty,.
Returning home in Nineteen eighteen Alex embarked upon a career in politics, particularly ultra right wing unionist, quickly making a name for himself as a fire brand orator in society as a whole and particularly the ranks of the newly formed British fascists. Following the continuing troubles in Ireland he volunteered a position of attachment to the Royal Irish Constabulary in that most infamous of bodies the black and tans.
Never having had adequate description or conversation about the man I was lucky to see numerous photographs of Alexander in his prime. A proud, pristine, gravitas man he ever appears perfectly dressed in either uniform or civilian attire with a well-manicured moustache and hair cut short and tight. Never married, with ways and manners ever bordering upon the dark, violent and unusual he is patently ticked within hereditary lists as an open question mark.
Whilst we cannot choose our antecedents even less be held accountable for their politics, views and actions, however inappropriate or presently despised, it is of fundamental import to personally recognize and face the demons held suspended in our genetic soup. Only by truly understanding the erroneous thoughts and concepts that created us can we hope to mold a better form from the cloying clay that is creation.