Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Did you know that St. Patrick was a British missionary who went back to Ireland after being captured and held in slavery there for six years? You can read more about him here and here.
My thoughts always drift back to my grandfather (my mom's dad) on St. Patrick's Day. He immigrated from Ireland when he was in his twenties and lived in America the rest of his life, passing away in 1978.
Long after his death, my mom began receiving correspondence from one of our relatives who was asking whether Ed, my grandfather, was still alive. After breaking the bad news to our relative, the two began writing back and forth, and that eventually led the relative to send several books and journals from other relatives that date back to May 1, 1917.
One of those artifacts is called a "war work journal," and it's heartbreaking to read. Here's a snippet:
I know, the penciled text in the photos is nearly impossible to read. But I took the time to transcribe it as best I could and here's how the note reads, as best I can tell:
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 but we look forward in hopes of help from you.
I don't see any names listed after that.
So many questions run through my mind. Was this a rough draft that they never sent? If they did send it, did they ever receive a response to their plea?
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 current location? Do they represent how long it had been since he last ate?
It's gut wrenching to think about – especially knowing that this is my great grandfather's ledger. But the nobility of these men makes me proud.
Let's get to this week's thoughts about slowing down and living deeper.
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Have a great weekend!
Lee Warren is a freelance writer and editor who has written twelve non-fiction books, one novella and hundreds of articles for various newspapers and magazines as well as edited more than 50 books that currently appear in print. He's a fan of NASCAR, baseball, tennis, books, movies and coffee shops.