When I was growing up, the most exciting thing that could happen as part of the school holidays was when my mother took us all to visit her family in my grandfather’s house just outside Dublin in Ireland. It was a major undertaking – there were five of us sisters and my mother, all travelling across to the port of Holyhead Anglesey, getting on to the ferry and then traveling across the sea to the port of Dún Laoghaire where the ferry docked. I had so many wonderful memories of the journey (once the sea sickness was over!) of this beautiful country where both my mother and father had been born, where they had met and married all those years before. So it was a special delight to be able to travel back there with my husband and my own son many years later.
It was more than twenty years since I’d visited but memories came rushing back and I found I could retrace my steps almost as easily as if it had been yesterday that I’d walked that way before. I found Dublin Castle, the General Post Office where the 1916 rebellion had started. I walked along the Dublin Strand and from there, tracing my childhood footsteps, I was able to lead my husband to my Grandfather’s house in the little village of Sandymount where I had spent all those wonderful summer holidays. I even walked around Trinity College where my mother and father had met even more years before and then across Stephen’s Green where the magnificent gateway has a high wide arch where the names of all the Irishmen killed in the Boer War are listed. There’s one of my ancestors there – my Great Uncle Charlies – Charles Walker – who was my grandfather’s younger brother. He was only 17 when he died and as I take my name from my grandmother Katherine Walker, he was her brother in law. As you can see, the weather was pretty typically Irish – lots of grey clouds and plenty of rain – the sort of day that in Ireland you learn to call it a fine soft day!