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Saturday, 20 March 2021

CHAPTER ONE OPENING EXTRACT FROM 'HAS ANYBODY HERE SEEN KELLY? - IN SEARCH OF MY FATHER' - A MEMOIR

© Joe Cushnan 2021 and beyond

Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly? 

In Search of My Father

Written by Joe Cushnan

Edited by Averill Buchanan

Word Count: 46,000

Here is a taster from Chapter 1 of a memoir about my father, John Cushnan from Belfast who vanished for 22 years (1960 to 1982) and resurfaced, with a reinvention of his background, as John Kelly from Derry.

Previous post contained an extract from the prologue/

Enquiries to joecushnan@aol.com

CHAPTER 1: Grave Thoughts

 

On Monday 19 July 1982 it was mild and cloudy at Lambeth Cemetery, London.

I was living in Hemel Hempstead at the time and my brother Kevin was over from Belfast for a business meeting. We met up and travelled together to Clapham as representatives of the Cushnan family for the funeral of our father, John. He died at the age of 57 from an intracranial tumour. At the funeral, all the people there knew him better than Kevin and I did. Jim Nicholson, landlord at the Rose and Crown, our father’s local, had informed my mother of her husband’s death. She wanted nothing to do with the funeral, with very good reason.

At some point in 1960, my father left his wife and seven young children in Belfast and pretty much vanished. The next we heard of him was when we were told of his death, twenty-two years later. 

I was six when he left and Kevin was two. This dead man in Clapham was, to all intents and purposes, a stranger to us both.

We spent the day of the funeral surrounded by his friends, there because they knew and liked our father. But for us, there was only a bizarre emptiness. We were playing the role of mourners. I am reminded of T. S. Eliot, from Four Quartets: 

 

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older

The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated

Of dead and living.

 

I have never felt comfortable in graveyards. The nearest one to home when I was growing up in Andersonstown, Belfast, was Milltown Cemetery. It is where most of my deceased relatives, including my mother, my eldest brother and my grandparents, are buried. A predominantly Catholic graveyard, Milltown is situated between the top end of the Falls Road and the M1 motorway and covers nearly sixty acres. It dates back to the mid-1800s and houses (if that’s the correct term) the remains of over two hundred thousand people in around fifty thousand graves. Despite being a ‘resting place’, Milltown has had its troubling incidents in the past, the best known being when Michael Stone, a member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), attacked mourners at the funeral of three IRA members on 16 March 1988. He shot around the crowd randomly and threw hand grenades. Three people were killed and over sixty were wounded. Stone was arrested and eventually jailed. Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ were pretty horrific over the years, but there are still some incidents that send shivers down the spine. I still associate Milltown with the chill of howling winds, miserable drizzle and, on the ghosts’ angrier days, pelting rain. 




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