I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The New Era Jotter from Ireland

P1040456The New Era Jotter doesn't look like a notebook that will stand the test of time. All four corners are tattered, the pages are dog-eared. The cover is ripped and wrinkled. The two staples holding it together are rust covered. But the "fine cream laid paper / Irish Manufacture" held up just fine.

On the second to last page, a history lesson is dated – in pencil – March 1920. As I gently flip through the pages, it is clearly a school notebook. A note we received in the package from Ireland from a relative says the Jotter belonged to Mickey John O'Connor – the brother of the man who fathered my mother.

The first page, written in beautiful, sweeping cursive, chronicles the geography of Ireland, broken into four parts:

(a) Northern Ireland

(b) Ireland east of the Shannon

(c) Ireland west of the Shannon

(d) Southern Ireland

The second page is from a history lesson about King George IV. About half way down the page, my uncle makes these comments about the king:


Reign of George IV marked a long period of reform. Government attention on Europe. Peace at the Industrial Revolution, necessitates a change of energy in the direction of home affairs. Progress was made in matters of free trade, religion and the extension of the liberty of the subject.

A few pages into the Jotter, my uncle recorded a French lesson. In between the geography and French lessons, he figured arithmetic:


Unfortunately, my uncle didn't record any personal thoughts in the Jotter – probably because he wasn't allowed to. The Jotter was reserved for school work, but I would have loved to read his take on Ireland in 1920 – especially since Ireland was in the middle of its war for independence. But I'm just happy to be able to read any handwriting from a relative from that era.

Included in the package was a geography book, a grammar book, a "war work" ledger, an algebra book and a picture of my great grandmother Mary as a little girl – whom I never met, nor even heard of until now.


The war work ledger "commenced 1st May 1917." According to note enclosed in the package, the ledger belonged to Matthew O'Connor, my great grandfather, who I never had a chance to meet.

I really can't understand a lot of what I see in the ledger. Take for example, these rather detailed diagrams:



And the ledger contains page after page that looks like this:


Then I ran across these two pages and my throat tightened. It's written in pencil and extremely hard to read since it is so faded. Here's a couple of pictures of the pages, followed by my attempt to figure out what it says:




We the undersigned beg to bring before you the inadequately low rate of pay most of us are on, in fact it cannot be described better than starvation wages at this present juncture for we cannot buy the food necessary to supply energy for the work.

A man with a family of 6 to 8 cannot support them without going on short rations himself and it would be less than human if he took from his family what they wanted more than himself.

We would not take up your valuable time by enumerating the different prices of food and clothing. Suffice it to say that [some indecipherable dollar figure] before the war is not equal to [some indecipherable dollar figure] so that a man on [some indecipherable dollar figure] now is only equal to a man on [some indecipherable dollar figure] in war time and we need not inform you the average man had not much to spare at any time no matter how frugal he may be inclined.

We are in a bad way here and accept you can do something our case is hopeless but we look forward in hopes of help from you.

I don't see any names listed after that, so I'm wondering if this was a rough draft. And I'm wondering if it was ever sent. And, of course, I'm wondering if these men ever received a response to their plea. It's gut wrenching to think about – especially knowing that this is my great grandfather's ledger.

A page or two further into the ledger, is an "artillery map" of Dublin. It's not really a map as much as it is a listing of last names followed by a time period (9 1/2 days, 6 1/2 days). Do those time periods represent the amount of time each man has served in a particular campaign? Do they represent how long it would take each man to reach Dublin from his currently location? Do they represent how long it has been since he last ate?


It's hard to know, but even though I don't understand a lot of what I see in the package, I'm so grateful to have a snapshot into the lives of my relatives from Ireland – some of whom were born in the late 1800s. It would be the equivalent of one of my relatives from another country stumbling across this blog in the year 2,100. Seems crazy to even think it's possible.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...