I dedicate this page to our grandsons Feidhlim and Caolan Lennon
One day I hope this page answers some of the questions they may ask...
The following photographs are mainly of family and friends. Where possible I have tried to place them in time and location; if in doubt I say so.
Initially - re family - I was concerned only with my family (Cosgraves and Flanagans on my father's side, and Sands(es) and Owens(es) on
my mother's side), but now I have begun to add something of my wife's family too (this could, of course, go on forever... ).
Note of 5th April 2023. When I first began a website - way back in 1999 - I never intended having a photos corner; rather I just
intended inserting the occasional photograph. Of course, for mathematicians, I created my
Oxford 1969 page, a page, incidentally, that garnered over one thousand views within
It was only with the passage of time that I created this photos corner as a subsection of my
autobiography page. Thanks to the remarkable
Internet Archive site I have been able to determine that the first appearance of this page looked like
this in December 2015 (only the actual
text appears to be archived, but all the links to photos are broken).
Then, early in 2016, preparing for a visit to my sister Marie in San Francisco, I started for the first time to investigate my family background.
This was difficult to do, since my mother had died in 1967, my father in 1995, my brother Tony in 2009, and my brother Aidan in 2015, and I then
had only two older sisters still living. But, bit by bit, I started to accumulate scant information (greatly aided by the wonderful Sr. Mary de
Lourdes Fahy, of whom more below), and my genealogical discoveries began to be a feature of this page.
(1805/1806 - 9th August 1883), a great-great-grandmother of mine. Caolan and Feidhlim: one day you will know this Mary to
be a great-great-great-great-grandmother of yours. All eight of my great-grandparents were born before the
terrible famine of the 1840/1850s.
Mary's husband - whose name I do not (yet) know - died before her; Mary's death - as you may read - was reported by a son of hers, 'Patt',
presumably Patrick (below).
Without this Mary - and all the other fifteen - neither you (Feidhlim and Caolan) nor I would exist.
I have given an uncertain year for Mary's year of birth because if, for example, Mary was born in (say) December 1805, then she would
still have been 77 in August 1883. If I ever determine Mary's exact date of birth then I will alter the above.
Mary's son Patrick, and his wife Maria (née Howard), were the parents of my grandmother Catherine (Monday 24th
September 1860 - Tuesday 17th August 1915), my father's mother. I have written a great deal more about Catherine further down this page.
My father's family
1911? (See photo #4 for Cosgrave/Cosgrove.) Dad's mother was Catherine Flanagan, from Laughil, about 5 miles south of Gort.
Dad used to tell that she was taught at school by
and that she had once caused a stir at her school by refusing to accept a school prize from
because he had evicted her parents from their home on his land (I have to check this out sometime, for it could well have been her grandparents'
home, rather than her parents'). On the left is my father's older brother Anthony, and anyone who knows my nephew - Danny McDonald - could not
but be struck by the incredible likeness.
I only discovered recently that my grandmother lost an unnamed baby girl on Wednesday 15th February 1905; her death certificate gives her "Age last
Birthday" as being "1 hour". The girl's "Certified Cause of Death and Duration of Illness" is given as being "Premature Birth No med attend".
Left to right: Anthony (b. 7 July 1902), Catherine (b. 24 Sept 1860), Margaret (b. 15 June 1899), Michael
(b. 6 Sept. 1863), John (b. 24 July 1906), Bridget (b. 31 Jan 1904).
My eldest sister Marie (San Francisco, California) sent me the original of this scanned photograph in October 1993. Until then I had neven seen
any photograph of the boy who was to become my father, nor any of his parents...
Patrick Sands (1869-1913),
my mother's father. This is a copy of the original, given to me by my cousin Donal Sands (our grandfathers were brothers) when he visited myself
and Mary in June 2016. Until then I had never seen a photograph of my grandfather. This was a very happy discovery for me. (Patrick was a very handsome man indeed; his photo is in front of me, on the bookshelves above my computer, as I do this work. I would so love to have a photograph of Annie, my mother's mother, but sadly I have to accept that I will probably never see one.)
Patrick's birth (1869) registration,
his death (1913) registration.
I see I wrote in that 1913 death certificate that "I couldn't find HIM [John Owens, Patrick's brother-in-law, who informed of Patrick's death] in 1911 census. And NO Aghuigowly anywhere." I now (April 2021) know why I couldn't find Aghuigowly... ; it's because it was Aghingowly... The Superintendant Registrar misled me with the misplaced dot...
Here is that brother John - then aged 45, living with his father Frances (aged 77) -
in the 1901 census.
Patrick and Anne (he called her Annie in his 1901 census returns) were
married on Tuesday 14th November 1899.
Their first daughter Annie Maria - my mother - was born on Sunday 19th August 1900; Annie's
birth registration (#48 on that page).
Here they (Patrick, Annie and Annie) are in the
1901 census returns, and here they (Patrick, Annie, Annie, together with Daniel and Susan, my mother's only brother and sister) are in the
1911 census returns.
While my mother seems to have been named after her mother (I would like to think it an indication of Patrick's love of his wife), her brother and sister would appear to me to have been named after Patrick's own father and mother (see below).
My mother's mother - my grandmother Anne/Annie Owens/Sands -
died on the 17th of January 1918.
And here is page one of Annie's will, which she
on "the 6th day of May nineteen hundred and fourteen", naming (two of) her brothers, Michael and Patrick, as her Executors.
Some comments. Re Residence at the Time of Marriage, what looks like (indeed is in the official document) Rahorn should be Rahoran.
A very happy discovery of 7th April 2021. I have just found
this wonderful site, a compilation of the names of all Teachers Employed by the Commissioners of National Education on 31 March 1905, and, at page 10 of
are the names of my mother's parents, her teachers at primary school: Annie (née Owens) and Patrick Sands. Until I came upon this page I had not known the year of birth of my mother's mother - and I had wrongly thought it to be either 1865 or 1866 - but from this document (which shows that Annie Sands was 42 yrs and 6 months old in the month ending 31st March 1905) I deduce that she must have been born sometime in the month of September 1862. Unfortunately I have been unable to find her birth certificate.
Patrick's parents were Daniel Sands (1831/32 - 1900),
over four months before the birth of his grand-daughter, my mother Annie) and Susan Sands (née Sloan). Here is great-grand-mother Susan in the
1901 census returns, and she
died in 1913, in the month following the
death of her son Patrick, my grand-father.
When I was a child growing up in Bailieboro there was a painting of my mother and her father which hung over the mantlepiece in the dining/sitting room of our home at Henry Street; my grandfather was seated, and my mother - wearing a white dress - stood at her father's right shoulder (how bitterly I regret now that I never asked my mother about it; I was young and lacking in curiosity...).
Where is that painting now? After my mother's death in 1967 I became aware that the painting no longer hung where it had been, but it just didn't occur to me to ask my father what had become of it... I think I know what happened to it, but it is too late now to do anything about it.
My mother's home and ... (3 photos). The top photo (which I am unable to date) is one of the home (in Aghintaine, County Tyrone) of my maternal grandparents and their three children; it was in my mother's possession when she died (May 1967). I recall visiting it once in the late 50s/early 60s, but to my regret I didn't have the slighest interest in it at the time...
A photo taken by Kenneth Allen in 2012 shows the recent state of that house, the no-longer-used Catholic church, and - on the opposite side of the road - the former Aghintaine National School (it ceased to be used as a school in the early 1950s). My maternal grandparents taught in that school from the late 1890s, certainly until my
grandfather died in September 1913. That school - where my mother and her siblings attended - opened in 1886, as evidenced by this
carved stone set into a wall of the school.
The middle (undated) photo shows (at the back) my mother Annie, with her brother Dan and sister Susan ('Susie'), but, given that Susie was
born in 1903, it would be reasonable to date it to the mid 1920s.
The lower photo shows my mother (right) with an unidentified friend (?), undated.
My aunt Susie (a more fervent Catholic than the Pope) told me late in her life that her father - my grandfather - had built the original house with his own hands on a plot of land given to him (on what understanding I cannot know) by the then parish priest, but that he had taken possession of it after the death of her father (or was it after the later death of his wife, my grandmother; I cannot know). Then, in the late 2010s, I learned that the house was up for sale, together with the ruined school opposite, and I contacted the selling agent in Enniskillen, explaining that I would want to buy the
school 1886 plaque... Would they please contact the vendor/new owner to inform of my interest? Oh yes, they would... , but when I heard nothing I contacted again, reminding of my earlier query, and eventually they put me in contact with the vendor. Unfortunately nothing came of my request, though I did learn (is this true?) that the school could not be knocked down as it is now a 'protected building'...
My maternal grandfather's (long-abandoned) birthplace,
myself, visiting my mother's father's homeplace, in June 2017. The house is owned by my second cousin Donal Sands.
Dad's father, Michael, owned a pub, which he bought with money he earned working on the Chicago-Pacific railway (one day I must look into the sailing records, to attempt determine when he sailed across the Atlantic, and when he returned, ... ). The pub is at 'Cosgrove', the third
nameplate on the right hand side, Gort, County Galway). (The building is now a nail varnish salon, and its kind manager showed me inside during a recent visit). My grandfather was 'Cosgrove', but an error on my father's birth certificate led to him
becoming 'Cosgrave'. I only found that out in late 1994, some months before my father died (when I asked my father about this - why didn't they rectify the error - he just said they didn't bother). But, had I not discovered that, then I would never have been able to locate his birthplace, ...
How I found out that I should have been CosgrOve, and not CosgrAve. Sometime towards the end of 1994 I had a visit from a USA-born/based first cousin called Harold (his father and mine were brothers), and his wife Kathleen (she too had Irish family connections). I had only ever met this Harold once before, in the September of 1958, when, on a visit to Ireland, he visited my father (his uncle) in Bailieboro, my hometown. At that time I had just started to attend a boarding school - Gormanstown (a Franciscan establishment), and they - my mother and father, my brother Aidan, and Harold - came to visit me there. It must have been sometime in early September because I ran away from that school on three occasions, after roughly the third, fifth and sixth weeks, and then my parents removed me from that school. Harold's visit could hardly have been after my first abscondment?
But now, back to late 1994... We had a lovely dinner here at our home, and just as they were leaving Harold asked me if I had ever visited the USA, and I told him I had been once - to the Centenary Meeting of the American Mathematical Society in Cincinnati earlier that year - and that I was about to go to San Francisco in January 1995 to attend its Winter Meeting there, and spend some time with my sister Marie before the meeting started... A conversation ensued:
Harold. We have a son, Christopher, living there... you should meet up him if you can. Me. That would be great... Harold. I'll give you his address... (and here my great good fortune was that Harold didn't just write down an address, didn't just write Christopher followed by an address, but wrote out in full: Christopher Cosgrove, followed by Christopher's address...). Me (looking at it, and not just tucking it away). Harold, you've made a mistake here... you've written 'Cosgrove' when it should be 'Cosgrave'. Harold. No, we're Cosgroves, so you are too... Me. No, no, not at all... my father and your father are brothers, my father (and thus so am I) is a Cosgrave, so your father - and thus you - is also a Cosgrave... Harold. No, we have always been Cosgrove, so you must be Cosgrove as well... Me. I think that when Irish people emigrated to the States, landed at Ellis Island or wherever, they would have been asked their name etc, and sometimes errors were made...
We left it at that, and shortly afterwards I spoke to my father about this. That's how I learned about the error on my father's birth certificate... . I didn't get to meet Christopher in San Francisco, but we did meet up subsequently here in Dublin... , but we've lost contact.
Note of Monday 15th March 2021. I have today discovered that my first cousin Harold died on the 28th of June 2018; there's a short obituary here.
Where are Christopher... ? And Harold's sister Irene? I met Irene once: she was visiting my sister 'Kitty' (aka 'Kay', at birth 'Catherine') who was then living in Ballyjamesduff down in our County Cavan. They both came here to have lunch with us one day - oh how dearly I wish I had a photograph from the occasion - and we all remarked on how alike they looked; they could have been sisters. Isn't that extraordinary... this DNA business.
My uncle Tony (date unknown), my father's older brother. This photo was given to me by my sister Marie.
My uncle Tony was born on the 7th of July 1902, and - in the light of what I wrote above at photo #4 (about CosgrOve - CosgrAve) - I was amused to discover Tony's
BIRTH registration, which shows him as being a CosgrAve! On the other hand, his older sister Margaret has a
BIRTH registration, showing her as being a CosgrOve. And, it was the very same J. P. Moran who registered both of them!
My uncle Tony emigrated to the USA sometime in the late 1910s / early 1920s (I must find out one day; see Addendum below), and he later offered
to pay my father's fare to also emigrate; happily Dad stayed here in Ireland. I only saw Tony once - it must have been in the mid/late 1950s when
he made a visit back to Ireland, and he came to Bailieboro to see Dad. I can clearly remember the two of them sitting unhappily together around
the table - Tony with a glass and bottle of whiskey, Dad not a drinker - and it was only in recent years (long after Dad died) that I could imagine the
source of their obvious unhappiness: their mother (my grandmother Catherine Flanagan/McLoughlin/Cosgrove) took her own life on the 17th August
1915, and it was Tony (then only thirteen years and eight days old) who found her body (I have her death certificate, and an inquest report from the
Connacht Tribune, dated 21st August 1915).
What secrets my father and his brother brought with them to their graves...
Because my grandmother's taking of her own life was considered to be a 'mortal sin' by the brutal and inhumane Catholic Church (with its
perverted 'Theology'; yes, yes, "the Church eventually dropped the ban on funerals for suicides from its law code altogether in the 1980s",
touchy-feely has now become fashionable until some other theologian decides otherwise), she could not be buried in a Catholic cemetery, and I
have been unable to determine where she is buried.
Before Catherine married my grandfather, she had been married to a James McLoughlin, whose own first wife Anne (née Fahy)
in Gort on the 4th of March 1890.
James and Anne had a son James, while James and Catherine had a daughter Mary, and then - yet another tragedy - my
grandmother's husband James
in Gort on the 20th of September 1895.
Mary (then aged 8) and her brother James (then aged 11) appear in the
1901 census of my father's parents, but not in the 1911
I would dearly love to know whatever became of Mary and James (I imagine that they emigrated, the common lot of so many Irish at that time).
Addendum and Tribute. I owe a very great debt to a Gort-based nun, the scholarly Sr. Mary DeLourdes Fahy (author of
this wonderful book, Education in the Diocese
of Kilmacduagh in the Nineteenth Century, a book that I once (April 2016) read by the banks of the Seine in Paris, with a map of Galway spread out in front of me, and I thought at the time (1916) that there was no more wonderful book in Paris that this one).
I learned a very great deal from her in relation to my paternal grandfather as seen in
this (rtf) document (this will download, rather
than open). In particular I learned this small detail in relation to my uncle Tony:
"Anthony Cosgrove, born circa 1902 [actually on 7th July 1902] emigrated to New York in 1923. It is stated in the emigration documents that
he was going to his 'aunt' Mrs. Jack Quinn. She was really his stepmother's sister, Norah Dooley, who married Jack Quinn of nearby Corker in
1910, prior to their emigration. Mrs. Nora Quinn died in New York in 1951."
My mother, Annie Sands, looking incredibly like our younger daughter,
My mother and a friend, Maureen McGowan. My mother's parents died in 1913 and 1918, and she and her brother and sister moved from the
Clogher valley area of County Tyrone to live with an uncle (Mum's mother's brother) at 3 Howth Road, Clontarf, just down the road from where I am
typing these words. I think - but cannot be certain - this photo was taken there. Was Mum about 19 in this photo? Mum trained as a teacher in the
inter-denominational Marlborough Street College, but after the
British left the students were split up... Mum transferred to Carysfort College in Blackrock, where I was later to work myself. Mum's father - who
died in 1913 - was a student here in St Patrick's College for the years 1887-89.
My Mum's school,
St Anne's Girls National School, just beside the 'town lake', Bailieboro. The school no longer exists; it was knocked down many years ago, and
now there are houses built there.
Note added following the death of my sister Marie in California (9:20 PM local time, Tues. 15th Nov. 2023).
I don't know when it first happened, but somehow my sister Marie started to be called Mary by people who knew her in California. I cannot
bring myself to call her by any name other than Marie.
Of my four siblings - Marie (b. Wed. 13th Aug. 1930), Catherine/Kitty/Kay (b. 1931), Aidan (b. 1933) and Tony (b. 1934) - the only one of whom
I have an early photo is my sister Marie. Until recent years I had always supposed that Marie - like the rest of us - had been born in Bailieboro,
County Cavan (where our parents taught), but Marie herself surprised me by telling me that she had been born here in Dublin (in a small hospital
on Leeson Street, one which no longer exists, it's now an office block), the reason being that Mum's sister Susie - who was a nurse here in Dublin -
insisted that my mother have her first child born in a place that she presumably considered safe. The rest of us were born in Bailieboro, in
a house on Henry St. that my parents rented all their lives.
In this compilation photo I have four scans (the originals were
all posted to me by Marie in 1993).
The top two (dating from early 1931) in the compilation show my mother with baby Marie, and one with Marie on here own - these were
almost certainly taken by my father's brother Tony (visiting from New York, for I have somewhere another mislaid photo of him with my mother
at the same time), while the lower two show my sister Marie in her (London) nurse's uniform (late 1940s, early 1950s?) - on the back of
that one is written in Marie's hand: "With me is my dear friend Mae. Taken 6A.M. in the morning following a long night. Marie". The final
one shows Marie (on right) with her sister Kitty.
The above envelope shows that in October 1993 Marie was then living at #197, 21st Ave., San Fran., at a time when she worked at the nearby
Mount Zion Medical Center, and
this 2nd compilation photo has written on the back:
"Some of the gals I worked with in Mt. Zion on my return from Saudi Arabia."
Two friends of my sister - Tina Ratto and Merilee Rossi - have simultaneously identified everyone in that second compilation photo.
They are, left to right, in the
top photo: Sandy Goldin, Tina Ratto, my sister Marie, Sandy Friedman and Taffy Dollard,
and left to right in the
lower photo: Jean Oliveira, my sister Marie, Tina Ratto, Mary Scheib, Sandy Friedman, Taffy Dollard, and Merilee Rossi.
Tina wrote: "Merilee was with many friends at Marie's bedside when she died."
Why don't I have any other early photographs of Marie, or any of my other siblings? The most likely reason is the obvious one:
that was a time when hardly anyone could afford to own a camera, and my uncle Tony visiting from New York was probably a very exotic figure
having his own (or hired?) camera. In fact the earliest Cosgrave family photographs that I have - further down - date from the mid 1940s.
Mary's parent's wedding, Monday 1st June 1936, Plymouth, Devon, England.
The top photograph is from the wedding of Mary's parents (mid front row), Frank and Pat (née McMahon) Smyth.
Frank's parents (2nd and 3rd from left, back row) were William and Bessie (née Biscombe) Smith, and Pat's parents (2nd and 3rd from right, back row) were Thomas and Bessie (née Eastlake) McMahon. Pat's sister Rene is on her immediate left.
Mary's grandfathers were both Irish, William from Belfast and Thomas from Cork City. After the wretched Brexit outcome in Britain, Mary decided to become an Irish citizen (she was already Hiberniores Hibernis ipsis, more Irish than the Irish themselves), and, while Mary could have claimed Irish citizenship by virtue of being married to me, her route to citizenship was through her grandfather Thomas McMahon.
The two lower photographs are of Mary and Pat (probably late 1950s), and Pat.
Auntie Susie's wedding, 19 June 1941.
Standing beside Susie is her husband Hugo McGovern, a good man, I liked him. Subsequently they lost a baby son, then had another, Pat(rick). Pat (my first cousin) and I were never close.
There are four men standing in the back row; I'll identify those that I know, left to right. I don't know who is the first of them (though he could be Hugo's brother?). Second from the left is my Uncle Dan (the only brother of Susie and my mother); he was a travelling agent for the school books publishers Browne and Nolan. Next to Dan is Thomas Sands, a first cousin of my mother's, and a primary school teacher.
Finally, on the very right, is my father, then just a month shy of his thirty-fifth birthday.
I don't know the woman immediately to Susie's left, but I do know the woman immediately behind that woman: my mother Annie, then just two months shy of her forty-first birthday.
In her nineties, Susie gave me a precious document: a four page letter that my mother wrote to her weeks before she died in May 1967. I've scanned those pages:
page three and
I love the "I'd say I'm on the mend as I'd just love it if someone handed me a cigarette to smoke" at the foot of page two.
Myself and my sister Catherine (she was 'Kitty' to everyone)
in our 'back yard' at home in Henry Street, Bailieboro, when I was perhaps 3 or 4 (?) months old. Possibly April 1946, when Kay would have
been home from boarding school.
Tony, Aidan (I'm on his back), Kitty
Bailieboro, Spring 1947.
All my family
except my sister Marie (who took the photo?), on holiday in Blackrock, County Louth, 14th August 1948. Left to right: myself, Mum, Tony,
Dad, Aidan, Kitty.
A studio photograph taken in Colman's studio Bailieboro, about the same time as the previous photograph? The Colmans were the first to introduce
photography in the town, but recently, sadly, the traditional family practice came to an end, for obvious reasons.
All my family
except my brother Aidan, who probably took the photo, at our home, Henry Street, Bailieboro, probably in 1950 (do I look about
four-and-a-half in it, for that would date it; Marie was probably back at home from London).
Cosgrave selection, six photographs, 1946, early 1950.
Mum and me (1950?), Tony, Kitty and Aidan (1946/47?), me (aged two?), Mum, Dad and me (1950?), Tony and baby me (Summer 1946?), Dad and his
brother Tony (visiting from New York, 1950s?). All of these photos were taken at the back of our home in Henry Street.
Newgrange, early 1950s. I include this (poor quality, scanned)
photograph only for historical reasons; it shows the entrance to the Unesco World heritage site
Newgrange several years before the famous O'Kelly
My sister Marie (on the right) was back home in Bailieboro with her friend Jean (on the left, both were nurses in London); my father stands between
them, and that's me at the front. In those days to visit Newgrange all you had to do was go to the home of a nearby farmer, obtain the key to the gate at
the entrance to Newgrange's renowned passage, get down on your hands and knees, and crawl inside... (Dad did it, but it was beyond me...)
My sister Kay, a bridesmaid at someone's wedding on 5th June 1955.
cigarette in mouth - I smoked with him in his schoolroom (and at home) when I was aged just 10 years - fishing at the Castle Lake, just outside
Bailieboro. Summer 1957. My brother Aidan probably took that photo, as he also appears at the same scene in the following one.
See previous photo.
Aidan, me, Dad, Kitty, Mum
at home. 1957? (Aidan's hair looks much the same as in the previous photo.)
Mum and Dad in the middle, Mrs and Mrs Paddy Kangley outside them. People from Bailieboro will know them all; the Kangleys ran a pub and
newsagents. I used to buy the Dandy and the Beano from them, later Charlie Buchan's Football Monthly.
Playing cards at the McEvoys
up the road from where we lived, 1958? I only name those I know, clockwise from the front: Mella McEvoy (sitting on the floor), J.J. McEvoy,
my sister Kitty/Kay (behind J.J.), Mr. McEvoy (the pater familias), my brother Aidan, my mother Annie (she was a great poker player), myself, Philomena McEvoy, and another of the McEvoy sisters.
Mella and Philomena were great friends of my sister Kitty, and poor K. was devastated when Philomena succumbed to T.B.
Mum and Dad
London, 18th August 1958.
at the blackboard in his school, Bailieboro, 1960.
Mary. My beloved in her teenage years, early 1960s.
Tony_Dad_Mum_JohnC_me. Leaving home
to go to school in England, September 1962. I have written about the background to this photograph in the
autobiography corner of my web site.
That photo was given to me by my sister Marie, to whom it was sent by my mother. At the back my mother wrote: "would you recognise your
kid brother JB?"
Mary, with French couple near
Angoulême, May 1966. Mary was then spending the third term of her R.H.C. undergraduate studies at Poitiers University.
Outside Kingswood Hall of Residence of Royal Holloway College.
Left to right: John Fricker, Richard Hoyes
(a tribute to Richard by a former student of his),
Vianni Waters (at back), Ian Mucklejohn, ?, ?, Bob Pearce, myself (with milk bottle; I used to drink 4 pints every day), June 1966, at the end
of our first year as undergraduates at Royal Holloway College.
Mary and Flott, 36 year gap. The upper part of this scan shows
Flott and Mary - just back, June 1966, from their end of first year visit to Poitiers University - in the R.H.C. Kingswood Hall of Residence
(sorry guys, I've cropped you out of this), and the lower scan is of Mary and Flott on the occasion (18th Jan. 2002) of Flott being awarded the
Chevalier dans la Legion d'Honneur by the French government (there's another photograph from that occasion further down this page).
Nic, Dan, Viv, Flott, Damian, June 1966,
standing at the entrance to the
Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede, just beside the R.H.C. Kingswood Hall of Residence.
Nic Heath - an R.H.C. Physics student in our year - and it was he who introduced me to Beethoven's seventh symphony, a work that has lived with me since then.
Dan was my best day-boy friend when I went to boarding school in Oxford (1962-65; I have written about this in
autobiography corner of this site). Dan came to visit me at my home in Ireland in the
month when we both went to R.H.C. to begin our studies there in October 1965.
Viv(ian) Rynne was an R.H.C. History student. I though he was far and away the most handsome of us male students, and he was possessed of
a beautiful speaking voice. Viv and his lovely wife Nancy visited us here in Dublin on a couple of occasions when Viv was on pilgrimages to County
Clare to visit his father's place. We hast saw Viv at the 2015 fifty year reunion of our going up to R.H.C. (in fact, when Mary and I got off the train at
Egham who should also be getting off the same train but Viv. We had coffee and chat in a place on Egham High St. before going up the hill to R.H.C.) Sadly Viv passed away in October 2019. What has not scanned from that
card is the instruction (just above 'Reception'): "PLEASE WEAR A TOUCH OF GREEN!", a touching indication of Viv's love of Ireland (truly Viv
was more Irish than the Irish themselves).
Flott is, well, Flott!
Damian Neale was an R.H.C. French student. Damian introduced me to Elgar's Enigma Variations, a work that I still love.
A Nic-Damian note, June 1966 (yes, I am a bit of
myself, and RHC friends
Mick Ganley, myself, and Jimmy Graham Horton, standing atop the triangulation point on Lough an Liath mountain, near my hometown
(Bailieborough), Summer 1967. All three of us had just completed two years of our London Mathematics degree.
we are by a gate beside the town lake in
Bailieboro, that same summer of 1967. Anyone who knows Bailieboro will recognise the spot, and know that the field behind my right
shoulder is now filled with houses.
Kay, Dad, baby Aidan, at our home place in Bailieboro,
Mary and me standing on the bridge crossing the road,
directly in front of Royal Holloway College. Mary had just completed her final French BA examinations, and I was at the end of my first year as
a PhD student. June 1969.
Mary and me
at a wedding in Yorkshire, Summer 1970.
Our wedding day
24th July 1971, Plymouth.
Some friends at our wedding.
Left to right: Jimmy Graham Horton, Paul Goodey, myself, Steve Elliott, Mick Ganley and Mike Walker. All of us - apart from Paul (who had been
at King's College London, and who came to Royal Holloway in '68 to do a PhD with H.G. Eggleston) - studied Mathematics at Royal Holloway. Paul
and I shared a house in nearby Staines in the second year of our PhD's, while Mick and Mike did their PhD's with Fred Piper
(Mick was Fred's second PhD student, and Mike his third; Fran(cine) Beesley his first; see
Fred's entry in the Mathematics Genealogy Project.)
Why was my hair so short (compared to the others)? In the week prior to my marrying Mary it hadn't been... but I went to a
barber and asked for a "short-back-and-sides", which I had never had before. I wrongly thought it meant take a little of the back and a little of
the sides... But, when I opened my eyes: I saw I had been mistaken.
Some more friends at our wedding.
Left to right: Jean Horton, Hillary Ganley, Pat Goodey and Veronica Walker. Hilary studied Mathematics at RHC, while Veronica (like my wife Mary)
studied French there.
These two photograph scans were sent to me in recent years by my friend Jimmy Graham following his working through some old
protographs. (Any more Jimmy Graham?)
Jimmy Graham and Jean, at our wedding.
Plymouth, Summer 1972.
Left to right: Margaret (Mary's younger sister), Marie (our just recently born daughter, 5th June), Mary, Frank (the happy grandfather),
myself, followed by Jenny (Mary's elder sister) with her husband John, and their two children Ann and Clare.
Jean Horton and Cosgraves.
Jean Horton, myself, Marie (just two years old at the time), and my wife Mary, visiting our friends Jean and Jimmy Graham Horton in the summer
of 1974. We - Mary, Marie and myself - were shortly to depart to Nigeria, intending being there for three years. Fate intervened...
My sister Marie and Dad, Lake Tahoe, California,
Dad graduated as a trained primary school teacher - from the (then)
De La Salle College Waterford
in 1926 (he was just twenty at the time), and his first teaching post was in Navan, County Meath, where he taught for two years before moving
to Bailieboro, County Cavan. Dad taught in Bailieboro until 1974 - he was asked to stay on for three extra years after what should have been
his retirement age in 1971 - and late 1974 he ventured out to California to visit his sister Margaret (see photo #1 above) - and his daughter (my sister)
Marie, who was then working/living in San Francisco.
Myself and daughter Marie
up at the water recevoir, in the hills above Jos, Nigeria, December 1974. (Why was I wearing socks?!)
Mary and our daughter Catherine
(Jos, Nigeria, 13th May 1975; Catherine was 13 days old at the time)
Catherine and I,
(Jos, Nigeria, 13th May 1975).
Catherine, myself and Mary,
(Jos, Nigeria, 13th May 1975). We have no earlier photos of Catherine; we did take some, but they were destroyed at the local
processors. Fortunately we found out in time, and a friend - Walt(er) Potter - took these on his camera, and they survived.
Our daughter Marie,
Jos, Nigeria, 13th May 1975.
Mike and Veronica Walker, Germany,
Sept. 1975. Mike was in the Mathematics cohort below mine at Royal Holloway, and Veronica in the French cohort below Mary.
Mike was Fred Piper's 3rd PhD student (see also this
ETSI tribute after Mike
died in Sept. 2018, and this Wikipedia page), and after
graduation Veronica taught French in a school in Slough - on Shaggy Calf Lane (the school still exists) - where she and Mary were colleagues for
one year, 1971-72.
When Mary and I moved from Slough to Stockport in September 1972, Mike hired a van and drove us - and Veronica and all our belongings - all the
way to Stockport, and stayed with us for a couple of nights to help us settle in.
Dad's retirement function, 1975. Dad taught
in Bailieboro from 1928 until 1974 (46 years!, previously in Navan from 1926 - the year he graduated as a primary school teacher - until 1928), and in
1975 a reception was organised in his honour, attended by some three hundred people. The photograph - and accompanying note - are from the
- The previous four photos were taken by our friend Walt(er) Potter, my colleague in what was (then) the Mathematics Department of the
Jos Campus of Ibadan University, Nigeria (I escaped from there in November 1975 with my wife Mary - she was seriously ill at the time,
having been given a dirty needle injection in the (corrupt) Government hospital - along with our daughters Marie and Catherine).
I visited the United States for the first time in January 1994, when I ventured to Cincinnati to attend the Centenary Meeting of the
American Mathematical Society. Walt was also in Cincinnati for that Meeting, and here we are:
Walt (left) and myself.
Incidentally, at that same Centenary Meeting, I had a wonderful encounter with the renowned Dutch mathematician
Dirk Jan Struik, and I have written about that in a specially created corner
of my website
- After we escaped from Nigeria (late November 1975) I started a new job in Carysfort College, Blackrock, Co. Dublin on the 12th of January 1976. There I (and my wife also) made a wonderful friend: Proinsias Ní Dhorchaí in the Irish Department.
Growing up in Bailieboro - and in the years following until I returned to Ireland at the age of thirty - I had never heard any real traditional
Irish music, and it was a revelation to me to discover the music of the renowned uileann piper
Séamus Ennis. And yet another pathway to discovery was the
wonderful RTÉ radio programme An Droichead Beo (The Living Bridge), presented by Peadar Mercier (oh, if only
RTÉ would repeat it...).
Then - oh joy of joys - through Proinsias we became friends of Peadar, and then later friends of Nuala, Peadar's wife.
"Think where man's glory most begins and ends,
Proinsias was a wonderful flute and tin whistle player, and as there were many talented traditional music players in the student body at Carysfort,
Mary and I used to invite some of them (with Proinsias and Peadar) to play their instruments here at our home (I care to recall Peter McCabe,
Mary Jo Brennan, Maedbbh Ní Lochlainn, Mary and Collette McKenna, and Bríd Coffey).
and say my glory was I had such friends."
The Municipal Gallery Revisited, W. B. Yeats
Through Peadar's friendship with the renowned Tony MacMahon we
once enjoyed a memorable evening when Tony played here (he gave a rendering of Aisling Gheal (Bright Dream), and there wasn't a dry eye
in the house...)
Séamus Ennis was to have played here on another evening, but, when Proinsias went to collect him, he had just gone into hospital, and the
opportunity never came again.
In this photo (taken beside the river Liffey) - left to right -
are Peadar, Dan O'Dowd, Séamus and Proinsias.
Our friend Mel (a son of Peadar and Nuala) made this
wonderful RTÉ documentary about Peadar; immediately, at the beginning, you will hear our beloved friend Nuala (there are some
photos of Nuala and Mel further down this page, ones taken at Mel's wedding, and also on the occasion of our daughter Marie's wedding).
Blackrock seafront, Dublin, Summer 1976, our first summer back in Ireland.
My (our) friend Bob Sandling and myself,
Bob and Judy's home, Stalybridge, April 1978; Bob was my great friend in the Manchester Mathematics department, 1972-74.
Tom Barron, with our daughters Catherine
and Marie. Tom frequently brought us (Mary and I, Catherine and Marie) on trips to the countryside outside Bailieboro; this one was to Skeagh
Lake in August 1981. Tom was a noted historian.
At the Internet Archive there's a short eight minute film, Tom MacIntyre - My Own Place,
a film in which you may see the two Toms (MacIntyre and Barron) talking together. You will also see old Bailieboro as it was in my mid 20s, a place
now long gone.
My father taught Tom MacIntyre for three years in primary school (and Tom's mother taught me in 'baby infants' and 'senior infants').
In later years when I was a Mathematics lecturer in Carysfort College,
Seamus Heaney - the then head of the English Department - invited Tom MacIntyre
to give a talk to the English literature students, and Mary and I invited Seamus, Tom, and friends back to our home for supper. While here, Tom
autographed 'Dance the Dance' (Faber & Faber, 1970) - his wonderful collection of short stories - for me.
Frank and Felicity,
Mary's father Frank and our friend Felicity, Blackrock, Sept 1983.
Dad with his sister Brigid,
Sister Mary Anthony, London, Sept 1983.
Andy Baker and myself, Plymouth,
mid-April 1984. I can remember what I was trying to explain to Andy at the time!
Manmohan Thakore, Dublin,
22nd February 1985. I met Manmohan here in Dublin over a period of two days, Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd of February 1985, and
subsequently we enjoyed a lovely friendship-at-a-distance: at least sixteen letters - I still have his sixteen to me - each way between Kolkata/Beijing
and Dublin, from March 1985 to shortly before Manmohan's death in 1992. Manmohan's last letter to me is dated 4th March 1992.
In his fifth letter, written on 1st February 1986, just back from a two week holiday in N.E. India, Manmohan commented on my letter of 8th January
which he had just seen, and then continued: "...But then came the biggest shock of all when the T.V. announced the death of Nikhil. He has been
cremated only last evening. Each one of us feels it as a personal loss. The route to the cremation Ghat was lined with six portraits of the dear
departed and the procession took full two hours to reach the Ghat. All the local artistes, including my friend, Ustad Imrat Khan, were there to lay
wreaths and pay homage. What a tragedy!"
How did I come to know Manmohan? It's all to do with my falling in love with the traditional and classical music of India, a love affair that
tentatively began at Easter 1966 (when I came to know of Ravi Shankar on an LP of Yehudi Menuhin's, one brought out to mark Menuhin's
50th birthday), lay dormant for some fifteen years, but rekindled in early 1981 (when I saw
Alarmel Valli in a BBC TV series called The Spirit of Asia). In April that year I visited Blackwell's
music section in Oxford and just blindly bought every single Indian record they had... One of those was a truly wonderful recording of Rajasthani
traditional music - Songs of Love and Devotion of Rajasthan (here it is!).
In the following months I came to know of the Baul traditions in Bengal - I bought some recordings - and then, at the end of January 1985, a chance
accident led to the Indian Council for Cultural Relations sending a delegation of both Rajasthani
(Langas and Manghaniyars) and Baul musicians to visit Dublin... Why a 'chance' accident? Well, this is what happened. For over a year I had been
on friendly terms with Kiran Doshi (the then Indian Ambassador) and his wife Razia, and at the end of 1984 they went to India for the Christmas/new
Year period. On her return Razia phoned to tell me that in their absence a telegram had arrived from the I.C.C.R. asking if there would be any Irish
interest in such a visit, but - while they were away - an embassy official had responded negatively... Razia asked if I knew anything about such music,
did I think there would be any interest? Of course there would be interest!! I would be more than interested!!
Razia contacted the I.C.C.R. to cancel the original negative response, and the upshot was than on Friday the 22nd of February 1985 this truly
wonderful mixed group arrived here in Dublin, the Baul group managed by (my soon-to-be-friend) Manmohan, the Rajasthani group managed by
Komal Kothari (I had LPs on which he had contributed the sleeve notes).
Kiran did me the honour of asking me to meet them at the airport on his behalf (as soon as I set eyes on them I could see they were the
genuine article), and to bring them directly to the Embassy for a meal. Entering the Embassy the musicians attempted to touch Kiran's feet (the
traditional way of showing respect), but Kiran would have none of it. They didn't head straight for food, but instead sat on the floor and sang song
after song... it was simply heavenly... Later I phoned a few friends to say: you have to attend their concert in Trinity College tomorrow night or
you will regret it for the rest of your lives...
Later that evening they gave an invitation (various ambassadors and students) only performance in the Royal Irish Academy of Music (R.I.A.M.) ...
it was poorly attended but they sang as if doing so for the entire world. I don't recall seeing a single student... Afterwards the musicians and myself
headed for the home of one of the embassy staff and once again they sat on the floor and just sang their hearts out (could I have been dreaming
all of this?), and I made my way home in the early hours of Saturday morning, punch drunk on music.
The following morning I phoned our friend Peadar Mercier (see elsewhere on this page): Peadar, believe me, tonight some of the most
remarkable musicians you will ever hear are performing in Trinity College, you must be there, tell everyone you know...
I spent most of that day with them - there was a capacity audience (some 300-400), what an occasion! - afterwards Kiran told me he had invited the
musicians back to his residence, and to bring with me whomever I wished... I found Peadar and he went up with me. Before I proceed let me just
record this observation of Peadar's: that at that time, Manmohan was the best presenter he had seen in his lifetime (and Peadar would have
seen some quality over the years... ; what a very great pity, though, that Peadar - who died 6th September 1991 - did not live to see his own son Mel
present his U.C.C. Gamelan orchestra, for then Peadar would have placed Mel on that same pedestal).
A photo that I wish I had been able to take: still at TCD - before heading up to Kiran's - I was with Peadar when one of the Baul
musicians stood with us, one who had a beard just like Peadar's. Having no common language, but admiring each other's beards, each touched and
stroked the other's, a delightful moment. The following afternoon I took a photograph of that Baul, and
here it is. And - for the record - here's a
of (the renowned) Komal Kothari with one of the Rajasthani musicians, and one of the remarkable
Bundu Nek Muhamad Khan (I am relying on a note I made at the time, having asked Komal Kothari), and finally a
photo of myself (I had to bend my knees!) with four of the
Rajastani musicians, all these from the afternoon of Saturday 23rd February 1985. A memorable time in my life.
This group photograph is from the Sunday Tribune
of 24th February 1985.
Incidentally, those very same Langa-Manghaniyar musicians performed in Carnegie Hall in November later that year; see the NY Times reviewer
Robert Palmer's account in the Nikhil Banerjee corner of my website.
The Sadique Khan whom he mentions is the one to my right in the last on the above photographs (and his 'Bundu Khan' - "the evening's
outstanding vocalist - is my Bundu Nek Muhammad Khan).
Paul Suhota and myself, Rowanbyrn, Blackrock,
late summer 1985. Paul was from the Punjab, and in the mid-1980s he lived across the road from us. At that time too we were on
friendly terms with Ashi and Nishi Doshi, twin daughters of Kiran Doshi, the then Indian Ambassador. In the summer of 1985 Ashi and Nishi were
visiting Bombay/Mumbai and while there - and keeping it a secret from me - they got a tailor to fashion an Indian outfit for me...
I surprised Paul one day by calling on him dressed up in my Indian finery (the silk scarf I was wearing was a gift to Mary from another Indian friend).
Our daughters had said to me Dad, don't you dare wear that out of the house, our friends will laugh... , what else could I do but give their
friends a laugh? It was with considerable difficulty that I squeezed my legs into those trousers!
In 1986 the Irish government got it into its head to close down Carysfort College (I've related this elsewhere, in the
autobiography corner of my website). Rod Walsh - the College's technician -
went around classrooms taking photographs, and he snapped this one of me with my third year
Mathematics students, sometime in February
Front row, left to right: Kate McPhilips, Karen O'Connor, Kieran Lenihan, myself, Niamh King, Maura Bergin.
Middle row, left to right: Mairéad Cusack, Anne Carney, Aoife Glynn, Ann Canny, Eilís Kavanagh, Jim Dempsey.
Back row, left to right: Tony Gallagher, Deirdre Murray, Anne Malone.
I wonder if other similar photographs are archived somewhere?
Mary's Mum and Dad
Frank and 'Pat' Smyth (Pat was born Elizabeth McMahon), 50th wedding anniversary, 1st June 1986.
My friend Bob Sandling (Bob did his PhD with the renowned
John G. Thompson)
in Bob's office at the university, May 1987. I was there to give a talk on my Euclid theorem.
- I went to boarding school in Cowley (Oxford) for the years 1962-65, and I maintained only one friendship amongst my fellow boarders: Donald
Johnstone. Subsequently Donald worked (as a top translator) in Paris for the greater part of his life, and we stayed with him in Paris for the first
time in August 1989 (the year of the bi-centenary of the French Revolution).
This photo shows Mary and Donald together
on a trip to Versailles.
Donald and myself, August 1989, Paris.
Montpellier, August 1992.
also Montpellier, August 1992. Quiero estar con ella para siempre.
brother Aidan and sister Marie,
Muir Woods, June 1993.
myself, and my brothers and
sisters, in the Bailie hotel in Bailieboro, 20th March 1995, following the burial of our father Seán. From left to right Kay, Marie,
Aidan, myself, and Tony. This is the only photograph that I have of all of us together.
myself, and RHC friends
Pamela Idelson, Jimmy Graham Horton, and Graham Almandras, London, 9th July 1995. Royal Holloway had arranged a thirty year reunion
for students of Mathematics and English who had entered college in October 1965.
Mary and Swati, London, 14th July 1995. Swati Mukherjee
(born in Kolkata) was a very dear friend (of whom we saw far too little); her husband was Ratan Mukherjee (to whom I owe more than I could possibly
One of Swati's brothers was the renowned sitarist Nikhil Banerjee, the
musician I love most above all others.
And here is another friend, their daughter
Sheema, outside our home on
Sunday, 23rd June 1985, two days after she had
accompanied her uncle at his Friday
21st June Dublin concert ("It happens perhaps a handful of times in a lifetime, an experience such as we had on Friday evening at
Carysfort College, Blackrock, when the outstanding Indian musician, Nikhil Banerjee (sitar), with Anindo Chatterjee (tabla) and Sheema Mukherjee
(tanpura), performed. ... Hopefully, a return visit will be possible, which nobody who believes in music would want to miss.", Dr. Barra Boydell,
Irish Times, Monday 24th June 1985. Here is the entire
Irish Times review.
Swati with our
daughters Catherine and Marie outside our home on the morning of Sunday 23rd June 1985. Happy, memorable days.
Flott, myself, Mary, Kathy, in Flott's
garden, 15 July 1995.
- In July 1999 I was the fortuitous discoverer of the (then) largest known composite Fermat number (in mathematical notation it was the number
F382447 = 2(2382447) + 1, a number so large, that it could not be written out in the entire universe);
I wrote extensively about it here.
The real credit for this discovery goes to Yves Gallot, the remarkable French engineer/mathematician who wrote the Proth software which
made it possible. The enlightened French Embassy in Dublin invited Yves and his wife Lucile to spend four days here, and my wife and I arranged
a party here at our home to celebrate their visit.
In this photo of Friday 29th October
1999 I am presenting Yves with a specially prepared cake; that's our friend Nuala looking happily on from the side.
While on the subject of Fermat, here is a photo
of me standing alongside a statue of Fermat somewhere in Toulouse (where Fermat lived, and where Yves and Lucile live), when Mary and I visited
there in April 1996. In Toulouse - where our daughter Catherine was spending a year at the time in the university's Law Faculty - I came
upon a Rue Fermat (I cannot find a photo of me standing under the street sign bearing his name), and recall having a coffee in a cafe on it.
To my dismay, when I asked the staff if they knew anything about Fermat, I just drew a blank (but then, I daresay, if I asked most people on
O'Connell Street if they knew who (the great) Jim Larkin was, I might also get blank stares).
Chevalier dans la Legion d'Honneur. On Friday 18th January 2002 our friend Flott (Felicity Lott) had the Chevalier dans la Legion d'Honneur conferred upon her by the French Ambassador at his London residence. Left to right are Anna, Kathy, Pamela, Flott, Lesley, Mary,
and myself. All had studied French in the same year at R.H.C., while Pamela and I had studied Mathematics.
It was a wonderful, emotional occasion, and our daughter Marie (then studying at The Royal Marsden) was able to meet up with all of our friends.
And here's a photo of (left to right)
Mary, Flott and Lesley with other British students outside the Sorbonne in Sept. 1967, at the start of their year as Assistantes
d'Anglais in French schools.
My brother Tony, with Wendy Richard and her husband
John Burns in some London pub (date unknown).
Wendy was a well-known British actress, and she and Tony used to play cards
together every Sunday afternoon for years. I never met her, but there was something she did which make me like her at a distance: the BBC,
marking some anniversary in her broadcasting life, asked Wendy for a list of people whom she would like to invite to the event, and she included
Tony. Fair dues to you Wendy!
Wendy pre-deceased my brother by a little over six months; Tony died early in the morning of Tuesday 15th September 2009. Later that morning I
contacted Wendy's London agent (Angel & Francis) to ask if they would get a message to John Burns, but they already knew of Tony's death: John
himself had let them know...
Geoff, Chris, John, 23rd May 2013. In May 2013 I visited my sister Marie at her place in Mill Valley, California.
Geoff Mason was in the Mathematics group in the year below me ar R.H.C. (Mike Walker (above) was a fellow student). While visiting my sister Geoff and his wife Chris drove all the way up from Santa Cruz to have lunch and spend a very happy time with us.
My sister Marie and myself in the garden of her Mill Valley
duplex, 25th May 2013. My sister Marie - who trained as a nurse/midwife in London in the late 40s - emigrated to Canada in the mid 50s,
ending up in Calgary - and moved south to San Francisco in the early 60s, remaining there for the rest of her life.
- On Wed 21st April 2007 Mary and I attended the wedding of our friends Mel (Mercier) and Maura O'Keeffe, and here I show just three
photographs from that memorable day:
Nuala and Mel,
Nuala and John,
and Mary and Dara, Dara, a grandson of Nuala's.
- When our friend Mel was a member of the Music Department in University College Cork (first as a lecturer, then Professor and Head of Dept.)
his third year specialist students used to give an annual Gamelan performance. For a number of years Mary and I, and Nuala (with other Merciers)
used to go down for the performances. Happy times.
On our visit of March 1st 2013 I managed to take some pre-performance photos (just on my cheap Nokia mobile) of the Gamelan
instruments, and here is a selection:
and various close-ups,
09 and 09.
Truly they are objects of great beauty. It was Mel himself who commissioned their construction in Indonesia, was there for their
performance blessing, and arranged their transportation to Ireland.
- In May 2007 I started my research visits to Karl Dilcher in Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and over the next several
years we published ten (beautiful, I think) papers.
One of Karl's colleagues was the wonderful Srinivasa Swaminathan; Swami (who knew
of my love for Indian music) and I used to have regular dinners together in a downtown Indian restaurant. He once told me that when the great
Gandhi was visiting Madras (as it was then called) in the 1940s, and addressed a gathering (not in Tamil - a Carnatic language - but in Hindi), Swami
told me that he had translated Gandhi's words for the listeners...
Here is a photo of Karl and Swami together at
a departmental party, marking Pi Day in March 2014.
- On Friday 5th October 2007 our daughter Marie married David McMunn. Here is our friend
Nuala Mercier, with (left-to-right)
Margaret (Mary's younger sister), Jen (Mary's older sister), Chris (Margaret's husband), and John (Jen's husband).
- My great old Bailieboro pal Brian McFadden,
Sat. 29th May 2010, visiting the Old Moybologue Cemetery.
Brian and I go back a very long way, to the early/mid 1950s. Brian's father - Charlie McFadden (taught by my father in primary school) -
was a great local character; Charlie and his wife Kay (née O'Connor, from Kerry) met after the 39-45 war. Charlie and a brother were in the British army (N. Africa, up through Italy...), another brother - the youngest of them - Pat McFadden was in the
Glider Pilot Regiment,
in the group tasked with taking the bridge at Arnhem (and a son of his - another
Pat, born in London after the war - now lives back in Bailieboro, his father's hometown).
Kay (this poor quality scan dated from the mid
1940s) was a nurse with the British in (the then) Burma.
Many's the happy hour I spent in their home on Anne's St., just around the corner from my family.
We visited Portugal for the first time in September 2013, staying for four/five nights in each of Lisbon, Sisimbra and Ericeira. From Lisbon
we made a day trip to Sintra (a delightful train journey) and walked to the top of the local hilltop, en route passing a house in which Hans Christian
for a while.
Returning to Sintra from our hilltop walk we fell into the wonderful Fabrica das Verdadeiras Queijadas da Sapa; here is
Mary in its lovely cafe, which - at the time - we had entirely to ourselves.
And here are the gorgeous pastries which we had with our coffees.
Leaving, and paying, I waved my hand over the cafe's display tray and said in my best Portugese: Paraíso. The girl smiled at me as
she completely understood why I said it. (On our second visit to Portugal I was delighted that my Eu gostaria de uma fatia de bolo de chocolate,
por favor was understood. I benefited by some brief studies with the excellent
Fiftieth anniversary reunion,
17th September 2015. In 2015, Royal Holloway organised a fifty year reunion for students who went up there in October 1965 (the
first intake of male undergraduate students). During the year 1965-1966 a new extension to Kingswood (the men's Hall of Residence) was being built, and it opened in time for use in September 1966. The Hall was divided up into little pockets of eight rooms, and those of us in this photograph (all
mathematicians) occupied one of those corridors (we were the Maths corridor).
Left to right (sharing a table in the College's renowned
myself, Steve Elliott, Graham Almandras, Pamela Idelson (who also studied Mathematics), Jimmy Graham Horton, Graeme Norris,
Robin Shakeshaft, Mick Ganley (partly hidden) and Alan Ellis.
On that day my wife Mary sat at another table with the French 1965-1969 gang (one year spent in France). See the next photo.
The same reunion.
Left to right: Kathy, Flott, Mary, Lesley and Anna.
When Mary went up to Royal Holloway in January 1965 to be interviewed by members of the French Department (and also by some member
of the College's Administration), she sat outside the interview room waiting to be called, when out the door burst Lesley who declared (so Mary tells me): "I never want to set foot in this place ever again" (but of course she did!).
Later that year, in September, when Mary was taking the train from Plymouth up to Reading to catch another train directly to Royal Holloway,
she found herself in a carriage with (the previously unknown to her) Anna - who had journeyed from Oxford - also heading for Royal Holloway.
Mary tells me that the first person she spoke to at Royal Holloway on her first evening there, in the dinner queue, was Flott.
Incidentally, when I was interviewed for a place at Royal Holloway that very same January, my five person Mathematics interview panel -
consisted of (the renowned) Professor William McCrea,
Professor Keogh, (the loveable) Dr. Mary Bradburn,
Dr. Barbara Yates (evidently the first Irishwoman to obtain a PhD
in Mathematics), and Dr. Gearoid de Barra.
is Lesley in a photograph with Mary and Flott, one which dates from September 1967 when they spent some days at the Sorbonne in
preparation for their year as assistantes d'enseignement in France.
- left to right - are Anna, Kathy, Pamela, Flott, Lesley, John and Mary in January 2001 on the occasion of Flott being awarded the
Chevalier dans la Legion d'Honneur by the French Government.
Colm Flanagan and myself
at Tyrone House, Galway, 27th April 1916.
(A photo I took of Tyrone House.)
In March 2016 Mary and I stayed at the Lady Gregory hotel in Gort (my father's hometown), principally so that I could discover what I could of my
grandmother's homeplace, knowing only that she hailed from Laughile, and had attended Lough Cutra school (entering there in January 1867, when Michael Cusack was the school principal). Helpful staff there had put me in touch with a wonderful local farmer - Colm Flanagan - whose children
attended the modern school, and - miracle of miracles! - who farmed in the very location where my grandmother's parents had also farmed.
(How dearly I would love that Colm and I be cousins...)
Mary and Colm, on the road leading
to my grandmother's homeplace, 27th April 1916. Colm is pointing out his farm to Mary.
My grandmother Catherine's path to her
school. Colm Flanagan was able (with local knowledge) to identify the very spot on which my grandmother's parents' home had stood
(for which they paid rent to an English landlord, Lord Gough) - it was just to the right of the gate in this photograph. There is now a
modern bungalow standing on the original site (I couldn't bear to take a photograph of it).
Knowing the locality intimately, Colm was strongly of the view that in order to get to her school by the shortest path (by far), my grandmother
Catherine would have walked the path through that gate... (How often in my imagination have I trod that path...)
Myself and Erhard Glötzl, in Noto (Sicily), Thursday 28th
Sept. 2017. Erhard has a Youtube chanel here.
Mary and I stayed on the beautiful, historic (Greek/Roman) island of Ortigia for eleven nights,
apart from one night in the middle which we spent in another nearby historic town, Noto.
At breakfast, in the garden, in our lovely B+B, the proprietor Pepe (whom everyone in the locality seemed to know, for we later saw him wandering
around and he was greeted by everyone who passed by) introduced us to another couple sitting at a nearby table: Erhard and his lovely wife Dagmar.
I don't know how it happened, but very quickly Erhard and I established that we were both mathematicians, and Erhard wanted to know
something of the kind of work that I did... From my diary of that day: "E. asked me to tell him... I explained [on paper] Wilson,
Gauss, Lagrange, Gauss's 1828 binomial coefficient congruence and OURS." ['OURS' being the vast, and ultimate generalization of it that
Karl Dilcher and I gave in 2009/2010, which is part of our second paper here.]
After about an hour of this we looked up - hearing our wives laughing at us - laughing at two mathematicians lost in their world, and it was then
that the above photograph was taken... I think it captured our happiness at having shared a moment in time.
By pure chance Mary and I met them again the following evening: we were back in Ortigia, sitting outside a restaurant, when Erhard and Dagmar
passed by, on their way to a reserved table at another place... (And the following day I was rescued in the sea - a sea in which I liked to imagine
the great Archimedes himself had swum (for he had lived in adjacent Syracuse) - by Kathy Tidey, who had trained with the Canadian swimming team.
Kathy is in my phone contacts as 'Kathy who saved me', and we keep in touch.
Here is where Kathy rescued me.)
(Incidentally, one morning, in a bakery in Ortigia where I used to buy our morning bread, an elderly local man - whom I had never met before - said
something beautiful to me: "grazie per amare la nostra Ortigia", thank you for loving our Ortigia - to which I replied (I had just enough Italian
to understand him, and to respond) - é molto semplice a essere in amorato con Ortigia, it's very easy to be in love with Ortigia. How I
wish I had even a fraction of my wife's Italian, she who was once asked by two women Algherese (a regional dialect of Italian, with
Catalan elements) speakers in Alghero (Sardinia) if she was from Rome.
One day in Ortigia we got into conversation with an American couple; they were doing the usual million-miles-an-hour Europe visit: ... , one day in
Ortigia, then flying out to Palermo for one night there, thence to Paris for one night, ... . The lady asked me for how long would we be in Ortigia, and,
when I said eleven days, she looked horrified and asked in an incredulously voice 'why?!' When I remarked that eleven days was not
long enough, not even eleven weeks, nor even eleven months... she looked at me as if I was truly insane.)
My sister Marie, looking happy on her final St. Patrick's Day,
17th March 2023, 'final' because she died - peacefully - according to Maria Flores (her wonderful carer) at 9:20 PM local California time
on Tuesday 14th November 2023.
Further up this page is a photograph of myself and my four siblings, one taken on the day of our father's funeral (Sunday, 20th March 1995). Shortly
after that date my sister Marie made this prediction: Tony (b. 1934) will be the first of us to die, then Aidan (b.1933), then Kay (b. 1931), then
myself (Marie, b. 1930), then finally you (b. 1946) . Marie proved to be right.