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Sunday, 21 March 2021


 © 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 2 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 posts contain extracts from the prologue and chapter 1.

Enquiries to

CHAPTER 2: A Blue Folder

In 2013, I sat in my study staring at an array of items laid out on the desk. Stored in a ragged blue folder, the items had been buried in a filing cabinet drawer since 1982 when the folder was presented to Kevin and me at our father’s wake in the Rose & Crown. The folder contained:

·      undertaker’s receipts;

·      an employer’s letter;

·      a wage slip;

·      eight floral bouquet cards;

·      one mass card;

·      five club membership cards and five payment receipts;

·      a note on a scrap of paper;

·      two letters from friends;

·      correspondence from the Department of Health and Social Security;

·      a cheque book and a paying-in bank book;

·      nine photographs;

·      an empty wallet. 

These are the only things my father left behind. It is a rather pathetic inventory; nevertheless, most of the items turned out to be useful in researching his life.

Back at the wake, Kevin and I were in the company of strangers who were shaking our hands with gusto and passing on warm thoughts and happy memories as they reminisced about their recently departed friend. He sounded like a great guy – witty, generous when he could afford to be, and everybody’s pal. He had been living, working and mixing with Irish folks far from home in the Big Smoke and was being lauded and mourned by his circle in a boozer not far from Clapham Common. In true Irish fashion, this was a fond farewell, a celebration of a life, maudlin to a point but peppered with stories and a few homesick songs to send his spirit on its way. 

It was fuelled by free-flowing beer with wee chasers of whiskey and rum, trays of ham and tomato sandwiches and lots of watery-eyed throwaway plaudits: ‘Ach, sure, he was a great fella, right enough’; ‘One in a million, one in a million.’ 

Mourning is hard work when you don’t know the person you’re supposed to be mourning.

Someone handed us the blue folder containing the rather sorry collection of bits and pieces.

‘Kelly would have wanted you to have this,’ they said. 

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