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FAMILY SECRETS


"Up the river in a boat.... up the river in a boat", was my father's answer to my childhood enquiries as to the origins of the Spearin clan. William Spearin, my father, had one brother and five sisters. Three of these girls lived at 21 Emmet Place in Limerick City. One of these, Aunt Agatha, was a recluse and never ventured outside the front door. Her existence was unknown even to close neighbours. Their brother Joe, my uncle, was an operatic tenor, trained by Professor King-Griffin. Joe declined many offers to travel abroad to further his career as an actor-singer preferring to stay with his wife and family at home.

My grandfather, Joseph Spearin taught in the Christian Brothers School Sexton Street, the same school attended by myself and my father. It was known as the slaughterhouse. Corporal punishment was used at this time as a stimulant to enhance our learning capabilities. The school was across the road from Shaw's Bacon Factory where the killing of pigs went on throughout the day. Consequently, the shrieks, squeals and bloodcurdling screams emanating from both these establishments never bothered passers-by.

My unquenchable thirst for knowledge of my origins continued to elicit snippets of information, drip-fed to me by my golden treasury of ancestry and lineage. "Our forbears", my father divulged, "come from a long line of bachelors." I was ten years old when he told me this and I headed straight for the bookshelf. "Don't bother looking it up in the dictionary", he said. "A bachelor is a man who comes to work from a different direction every morning." At times I despaired of ever finding out if there ever had been an Adam Spearin or an Eve Spearin. I doubted if any member of the Spearin clan would have fallen for that old apple off the tree trick.

I had some strange relatives. An uncle on the distaff side studied Latin and although he was not ordained he said Benediction and sang the Tantum Ergo whenever he visited the houses of his relations. My father christened him "side saddle" as he rode his bicycle in an unorthodox fashion similar to the way Victorian ladies rode their horses. To preserve his virginity my father explained.

"Christy Donovan says we came from Germany", I told my father one day when I was fifteen.

"Thats correct", my father admitted,  "I suppose it had to come out sooner or later. Our square heads are a dead giveaway." Why had he never told me this before and what was wrong with being from Germany anyway?

"When Hitler lost the war", my father continued, "We relinquished the Von. Von is the same as Mac or O." 

"Oh no", I thought. "If my peers learn of this they might think I was a Nazi." Von Spearin sounded credible enough. I had heard of and read about Albert Von Speern, one of the Fuehrer's henchmen. My curiosity as to my origins waned immediately at this point and I never questioned my father on these matters again. Some things are best left alone.

Joe Spearin

June 2011




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Last update: April 2011

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