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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 April 2006, 06:07 GMT 07:07 UK
Unlocking memories from the past
In this week's reader's article, Patrick Flinn, an ex-pat living in Australia, shares memories of his late Gordon Highlander grandfather.


Twenty and some years have passed since George left us and I have only recently begun to understand the man that my Grandfather was. I wish I had known him better.

Register book

A Gordon Highlander, captured at St Valery en Caux in France along with the remainder of the 51st Highland Division and like many other men of his generation, he suffered at the hands of his enemies, both at the time and for the rest of his life.

He shared little of the pain inflicted upon him as a Prisoner of War.

George was a quiet man of simple tastes who loved his children and his grandchildren.

My grandparents have now passed on; the remainder of my relatives have spread all over the globe. The location of some I am aware of and others have simply; disappeared.

From inside me there was a growing feeling, a need to learn, a yearning to find who I was and where or who I had come from.

How many people can say they have two comb-makers in their family?
Patrick Flinn

This became the catalyst in my decision to research my family tree. My complete lack of knowledge concerning my ancestors became the driving force.

This voyage of discovery to my family started on the Genes Reunited and Scotland's People websites, these were the most accessible sites to navigate through from my home base in Australia.

I started with the known quantities, maiden names, weddings, deaths. Luckily, for me the Scottish Birth, Death and Marriage certificates hold a wealth of information for the uninitiated. Names, places and times have all become visible.

Genealogy has given me a family I never knew I had, none of my ancestors was ever well off, probably the opposite in fact, but they had interesting and varied lives.

How many people can say they have two comb-makers in their family! Well, I can.

'Remember the tears'

Our final goodbye face to face was when I was eleven. It was December 1974 and my family had made the decision to immigrate to New Zealand.

As we stood on the main platform at Aberdeen railway station, George took a five-pound note from his wallet and ripped it in half. He placed one-half of it back in his wallet and he handed me the other;

"When you are a man and you come back, we'll join these two halves together and we will have a drink, okay"

I can still remember the tears welling up in his eyes as he spoke.

We never did share that drink.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and are not endorsed by the BBC.



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