The Shamrock – Sunday, 2nd September 2012
The Story of a Wartime Shamrock.
Good morning all.
Today I bring you a story provided for us by Elaine Ellor, however, before I do I shall tell you a little bit about The Shamrock.
Traditionally, shamrock is said to have been used by Saint Patrick to illustrate the Christian doctrine of the Trinity when Christianising Ireland in the 5th century. However, this is described by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a late tradition”, first recorded in 1726, and could possibly be false. Nonetheless, since the 18th century, shamrock has been used as a symbol of Ireland in a similar way to how a rose is used for England, thistle for Scotland and a leek for Wales.
Shamrock commonly appears as part of the emblem of Irish sporting and official organisations. Shamrock is also used in emblems of UK organisations with an association with Ireland, such as the Irish Guards. Outside Ireland, various organisations, businesses and places use the symbol to advertise a connection with the island. For example the USA basketball team, Boston Celtics incorporate the shamrock in their logo and the US cereal, Lucky Charms, uses it on the product’s mascot and as a shape in the cereal itself.
Traditionally in Ireland, and in many places throughout the world, the shamrock is worn on the lapel on St. Patrick’s Day.
In the early 1980s, Ireland defended its right to use the shamrock as its national symbol in a German trademark case, which included high-level representation from taoiseach Charles Haughey. Having originally lost, Ireland won on appeal to the German Supreme Court in 1985.
Elaine’s Story – A Family Tradition.
My story starts long before I was born, in a time where my family lived in fear of bomb attacks on a nightly basis. They lived in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, amongst the numerous steel works and foundries, not a good place for anyone to be in a time of war, as many of the incendiary bombs would fall off target, and claimed the lives of many civilians. So many families and homes were lost, causing so much devastation and heartache; however, community spirit grew stronger, and they would not relent to the devastation all around them, and the harder life became, the stronger they grew.
It was during this time, that my parents got married. And like so many other couples, they rented a room with a family member, and there they lived till the end of the war. Life could not have been easy for anyone round that time; housing was scarce, as so many had been destroyed, causing a national shortage. The authorities had so much to deal with, that housing, while very important, was not always at the top of the list of priorities. And by this time, my parents had two children, Joan and Wendy.
A few weeks after the war ended, a friend of my Father’s came over to see him; he told him that the Army were moving out of the Barracks, which had been built in the grounds of Wentworth Wood House, just a few miles away. He said he was getting a few families together, to go and squat in the Barracks till the authorities provided them with proper accommodation. To my parents, this was a golden opportunity, and the group wasted no time in gathering their belongings, and setting off for Wentworth. When they arrived, the Barracks were deserted, and meticulously stripped bare of everything. This camp had been Intelligence Corp, dealing with Field Security and Signal Intelligence. But no longer, all was now peaceful and quiet.
The group moved around the facility, deciding how the buildings could best be divided equally among them. And soon, they were all busy turning their new found space into a family home. As you can probably imagine, word quickly got back to the estate manager, who dutifully reported this to his employer, The Earl of Fitzwilliam, who went down to the Barracks in person to see what was going on. They had been expecting some resistance to their presence, but they didn’t think it would be from the Earl himself. So they calmly explained that they were merely trying to put roofs over their family’s heads, and were claiming squatter’s rights. They were a little confused when the Earl smiled, and began laughing. None of them knew exactly what the right thing to do or say was, but they stood firm, and said they were not leaving. “And nor would I expect you to.” replied the Earl, to everyone’s amazement. He said that as long as they kept the place in a clean good condition, and they caused no damage to the estate, (by which he meant leave my deer and pheasants alone), they were free to stay as long as need be. They offered to pay the Estate a nominal rent, which the Earl accepted. And in return, he gave them the rights to fish the three lakes on the estate freely.
At first, their new home was very basic. But slowly, and with a lot of hard work, my parent’s home finally had bedrooms a kitchen and even a bathroom. They were very comfortable, and very much attached to the home they literally built together.
Not long after they had moved to Wentworth, my Father became acquainted with one of the Gardeners. He was an old Irish gentleman, known only as Mr Green. My Father always described him as being so small, that he had to stand on his tip toes just to push his wheel barrow. And all you could see of him, over his garden gate was the feather in his hat. As a child listening to my Father recount these memories, I always pictured this little old man dressed as a leprechaun, like the ones in the fairy stories my Mother would read to me. And wondered, if somewhere in his garden was hidden a pot of gold.
Old Mr Green the Gardener had a cottage, on the edge of the estate. And each day as my Father was coming back from work, he would pass the cottage. And each day, old Mr Green the Gardener would be tending his vegetable patch or fussing over his prize Dahlias. My Father would always stop, and pass the time of day with him. And with all the information and tips he gained from Old Mr Green the Gardener, he soon had a vegetable patch of his own, to my Mother’s delight.
Many happy years they lived in the old Army Barracks, and many friendships were forged. The group of squatters quickly became as much a part if the Estate community as the house keeper, the Butler and even Old Mr Green the Gardener were. They regularly proved their usefulness, when it came to the shooting season, as beaters flushing out the birds, or trekking through the woods when it was time to round up the deer. And at these times, venison and pheasant would always be delivered to the barracks by the Game Keeper, with thanks from the Earl.
Every year, the Earl would hold a garden party for the staff at the house. And for that day, there was no such thing as a class barrier. For one day, all were equal, and the Earl and his family would play lawn games alongside the kitchen maid and cook. And always, the group of squatters would receive their written invitation to the festivities. And at Christmas, the Earl would come down to the Barracks, accompanied by the Estate Manager, to wish them all a Merry Christmas, and to deliver to each family A freshly cut Christmas tree, and a Goose. The Earl had become quite fond of his sitting tenants, as he called them, and never thought of them as squatters. He felt that he had a duty of care towards them, especially the children, who he was particularly fond of, and knew all their names. In return the families respected the Earl, and his land, and gladly offered there help whenever it was needed.
During their stay in Wentworth Park, the family had grown. Joan and Wendy now had another sister and two brothers, Billy, Susan and Brian, and my mother was expecting me. So eventually, the Council found a suitable house for my family. And with great sadness, the day came when it was time for them to leave. The family were all up early, and while my Mother made breakfast, my Father organised the children to help with the last minute packing. It was at this time, when my mother noticed Old Mr Green the Gardener stood at the bottom of the garden. My Mother went out to invite him in; he removed his hat, graciously nodded his head, and declined the invitation. At his feet was a brown sack, which he explained was a parting gift for my Father; it contained an assortment of Dahlia tubers for his new garden. In his hand was a small plant pot full of soil, which he gave to my Mother. He told her it was a Shamrock Plant, and said it was to bring them luck with their new home. My Mother thanked him kindly for the gifts, and Old Mr Green the Gardener once again nodded his head, put on his hat, and continued on his way.
So my family moved into their new house in Brampton, and shortly afterwards I was born there, and five years later so was my brother Stuart. The Shamrock had flourished, and my Mother tended to it with loving care. My Father’s garden looked beautiful, right to the day he died. It was a mass of colour, filled with dahlias, and beyond that, a vegetable plot.
In all my life, I have never known a time where there has never been a Shamrock plant in my home. For when we eventually left to go our own way, my Mother gave every one of us a small plant pot of soil, containing seeds from the plant that Old Mr Green the Gardener had given her. Just as my siblings and I have handed our children a small plant pot of soil, containing the seeds from our plants. Now our children are continuing the tradition, and the generations of shamrock grows with the generations of my family.
And all this came about from its meagre start as Squatters, on the land of Earl Fitzwilliam, and of course, Old Mr Green the Gardener, and his Shamrock.
6th July 2012
Many thanks to Elaine for sharing her personal story with us.
The Dyfi Osprey Project and the Scottish wildlife Trust have kindly given their permission for us to post still and video images from their webcams. To visit their sites please click on the relevant link. Loch of the Lowes. Dyfi Osprey Project.