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OLD PHOTOGRAPHS

 

 

It must have been a street photographer who snapped them as they passed – 2 young men striding purposely along a Dublin street. Before cameras became cheap and popular some professional photographers would take your picture and send it to you later in return for a cash payment. The year was 1941 and the taller of the two was my father. Shortly afterwards the younger man, who walks beside him, went to Belfast to join the Paratroop Regiment of the British Army. Six months later his family would get a telegram to tell them that their 22-year-old son was lost, presumed dead, somewhere in deserts of North Africa. His body was never recovered. Five years later I was born and named after my uncle Joe. This photo and a letter he wrote to an aunt, some years earlier, are all that is left of my namesake.

 

 

My parents married in 1946 shortly after the end of the Emergency, as we called the Second World War, in Ireland. They went to Dublin on their honeymoon. Staying in The Four Courts Hotel my father has the brilliant idea of going into the Lane Photographic Studio to have their photo taken. It was the only professional photograph ever taken of them and I value it highly. There they are in their best clothes, side-by-side, young and handsome, looking with confidence to the future. In time their marriage would have its up and downs but they would remain together for 60 years. I like to remember them as they were that day, blissfully happy.

 

 

When my father died, I inherited a box of photos. Among them was a tiny print, less than 2 inches square. In it I am pictured with 2 of my neighbours, Delma and Marylin. We were 3 years old at the time, standing around a tricycle and looking very solemnly at the photographer. Years later Marylin died fairly suddenly. I scanned the image and gave her family a copy of the young girl on the tricycle. Her daughter told me later that it was the source of much tears and laughter for the family as they had never seen it before.

 

 

One of the big thrills of my childhood was being woken at 3 in the morning. My brother and I would then get in the Morris Minor with my father and head off on the long journey to the port of Cobh, near Cork City. Out in the harbour we would see one of the great Holland America liners and sometime later, after the tender carrying the passengers docked, Helga would come running to meet us. She was my Uncle’s German wife and they had travelled from Hamburg to holiday with us. She represented everything that was foreign and exotic and in the weeks that followed the house would smell of freshly ground coffee, eau de Cologne and cigar smoke.

 

 

Later we would receive photos in the post, black and white images of their voyage and pictures of ourselves that they had taken. To this day these sepia images bring back many memories of that wonderful woman who died last month at the age of 92.

 

 

In time the era of the black and white photo passed and was replaced by colour. Over the years I took lots of photos of my own children and every now and then I look at them – those moments frozen in time. They bring back memories of birthdays and holidays and special events – times that would have been lost otherwise. Whenever I hear of a house fire I think of these irreplaceable mementos and hope that the family have not lost that which is not replaceable – those wonderful reminders of times past. 

 

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