Well, that’s the last of them. My Uncle Paddy passed away last weekend, the last of the Holloway brothers, of which there were seven. Seven who lived to adulthood, that is. More on that in a bit. No need to send your condolences; Paddy was 94, I believe, a lovely man, but I only met him twice, and that was a long time ago. He lived outside of London, not far from Windsor Castle. He was the only one to immigrate to England. Two others, including my father, came to Canada. The rest remained in Ireland.


My Irish grandparents, whom I never met, had 11 children in all. Nine boys, if you can imagine, and two girls. They were well-to-do, more lace curtain than shanty Irish, to use the terminology of the day, socially prominent, and clearly Catholic, given the number of children they had, and the level to which they were educated. Ernest and Patrick were academics. Ivor was an obstetrician, Redmond and Neill (my father) were civil engineers. Aidan was a veterinarian. I’m not sure what Michael did, other than put up with his wife Madeleine, which I suspect was a full time job in itself.


What about the rest? The two girls, Grace and Patricia, died of diphtheria, on the same weekend in 1924, along with their brother Maurice. They were 13, 3 and 5 years old, respectively. Can you even imagine? It was not uncommon to lose children to such disease at the time, but the pain and grief could not be less devastating. They lost another son, Maurice, to crib death 9 years later. There is no safety in numbers. My grandmother, as everyone says, was a saint, albeit a fecund one.


Growing up, I was fascinated by my father’s family, largely because they lived far away in an almost mythical place. My dad would tell stories about the farm they had, and the jam factory they ran, and the big house they had in Dublin. The boys all grew up with their own cars and motorcycles, and, from what I can tell, they were all considered catches, being handsome and educated as such. I’m not entirely sure why my father decamped to Canada is his late twenties, but I believe there was a girl, and a baby, who would be my half-brother, I suppose. Either my dad was a cad and a bounder, or some money changed hands, or both. I don’t know, and I don’t care. Believe me when I tell you there are bigger skeletons in both family closets. But all in good time, my dearies. All in good time.


When I was 18, my father took me and my brother Andrew, who was 12, to Ireland for the summer, ostensibly to meet the clan. We went to Tipperary, Dublin, Connemara and Shannon, where the Holloways came tumbling out of the woodwork. I found each and every one of then utterly fascinating. I don’t mind telling you that I was stunned when I met my cousin Jacinta, Ivor’s daughter, who was the same age as Andrew. My father had neglected to mention that she was a dwarf. She was a great kid, and she and Andrew got on like a house on fire. I was deeply saddened when I heard that she took her own life in her thirties. It could not have been an easy life, being a little person, especially in Ireland. I imagine she ultimately grew weary of people asking her where she kept her pot of gold. Bless.


My sister Kathryn is the record keeper of the family. She does all the research, and keeps in touch with everyone she can. She goes to Ireland quite regularly, and does not hesitate to call people up and knock on doors to get the latest intel. She was the one to hear about Paddy. As our cousin Paulene put it: “Well, all the boys are with their mother and father now, and it’s up to our generation to carry on the family name.”


Carry on, Holloways. Carry on.


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