Ravings From The Bog

Murder, Genealogy and The Irish Civil War

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to know more about my family history. My surname is fairly unique – anyone living in the UK and Ireland with the name Parte or Part is related in some way to my family. We’ve no solid idea where it came from originally, and I’d really like to take one of those DNA diagnostic tests that can tell roughly where your ancestors originated. Must look that up!

One of the things I have found out in my quest so far, is that my great grandfather on my father’s side, Charles Part, was murdered on May 1 1922. He had retired from the British Army after his service in the Boer War and in a reserve battalion based in Cork and Dublin during World War I, and was working, aged 55, as a postman in Keady, Co. Armagh. On the day of his death, my grandfather, also called Charlie and aged 16, was helping him deliver mail in the townland of Derrynuse. They separated temporarily and were ambushed simultaneously by members of a local republican group. Charles Senior, was killed at the scene and his son was shot in the head and arm, and left for dead. He recuperated in hospital for a year and when released, his widowed mother, Rose, moved Charlie and his brothers, Ernie and Eddie to Belfast. We believe it was at this stage that they added an “e” to the end of Part – reason unknown.

As far as I can surmise, Charles Part was targeted because of his Unionist views, his service in the British Army, his Presbyterian religion, or the fact that as a postman, he was a government employee, who until comparatively recently had the Crown as part of their cap badges, or perhaps all four.

He was not alone. Thousands died on both sides of the political and religious divides in a vicious guerrilla war. However, it was a surreal experience reading about a murdered relative for the first time when I got a copy of the Belfast Newsletter that described the incident. I was also able to obtain Charles’ death certificate was really brought it home for me.

The ultimate irony is that only a few years later, his son Charlie would marry a Catholic girl from Ardee, Co. Louth, and in the 1950s be living in Andersonstown, West Belfast. Our family since then, across several different branches, has included a prison officer, a policeman, a hunger striker and various other combatants on both sides, in the more recent 1969-1994 “Troubles” with a few close shaves at times.

I can vividly remember visiting my grandparents’ house around 1972 and seeing Rose, who was at least 92 at that stage, wrapped in a black shawl with her long grey hair, sitting in front of the fire for warmth. I had no idea at the time, aged 10, of what she had experienced – a missed opportunity to glean some historical gems. Lesson learnt! I have grilled my mother for any details she can provide about her family and have made connections in England, where her father came from. My Genes Reunited family tree now has over 400 names and goes back as far as 1757.


Racism is alive and well in Belfast again
August 12, 2008, 10:50 pm
Filed under: History, Life, Politics & Current Affairs, Society | Tags: , , ,

Today, the Northern Ireland page of the BBC news website carried an item about this sign, posted on a house for rent in South Belfast.

I thought we’d seen the last of this sort of racism and bigotry, or at least in broad daylight.

It’s not that many years since job advertisements in the Belfast Telegraph or Belfast Newsletter read, “Protestants only need apply”. In England in the 1960s, it was common enough to see posters

 in rental accommodation saying “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish”.

Bigotry and the improper use of power was what started the civil rights campaign here forty years ago. Do we need to start marching again to protect the rights of immigrants to our country? You’d think after thousands of deaths and injuries, we’d know better.

This attitude is disgusting and has no place in a civilised society.

Bullets and Romance Belfast-Style
August 12, 2008, 10:15 pm
Filed under: History, Life, Society | Tags: , , , ,

It’s more than thirty years ago but I remember it fairly clearly.  The early and mid-seventies were dark and frightening times in West Belfast. On many evenings I would be doing my school homework 

and hear the rattle of IRA Armalites and M1 carbines being fired from stolen or commandeered cars at Fort Monagh, the nearest British Army/RUC base to our home in Gransha Parade on the Glen Road, and the different tone of the British Army’s FN Belgian Patrol Rifle (known to all as the SLR) answering back. This and the constant military presence felt normal. In other words, the dark and frightening times were the back-story to my puberty and adolescence.

One welcome distraction at this time was the practice of women and children in Catholic areas meeting at a pre-ordained time in the evening to say a few decades of The Rosary to pray for peace in Northern Ireland. I was an early atheist and in my view, religion equalled Voodoo, so to me, and a few of my friends, it simply meant a rare opportunity to get close to girls. My primary and secondary schools were “boys only”, sadly. There were a few particular girls that I had in mind of course – Claire Malone, Nuala McKeever, Fiona Hill, Deirdre Moreland to mention but four! Opportunities for a chat depended on a number of variables. There was the weather, the amount of homework they had been given that day, Thursday night’s Rosary 

was usually youth-free because of the TV programme, Top of the Pops, and a few others, but more often than not, at least one of my top four were there. However, at thirteen or fourteen years old, a young man’s mind can race ahead romantically and I had myself married off, settled down and with children mentally, when the reality was that I was never slick enough with any of these girls to wangle a date.

My main memory of these events is a mental vision of the yellow light from the lampposts in Gransha Avenue reflecting on the rain drenched street, while I pick at Curran’s privet hedge in boredom, large cold raindrops running down the back of my neck with the “hum” of prayer in the backround.

I also remember the guarded looks from the soldiers, as they would pass on foot-patrol occasionally. I don’t know who felt more out of place, them or us. Many years later, I would meet a couple of ex-soldiers who described their time stationed in the roughest parts of Belfast. Most of them weren’t much older than I was then. I cannot even imagine what it would have been like, aged 18 or 19, to travel to Leeds or Birmingham and to walk the wet streets at night with a rifle waiting for someone to take a shot at me. It must have been terrifying for most of them.

I’m sure that some of them were praying too.