Today We Remember: A Personal View

On the way to Manchester, in Collyhurst, there is a war memorial that lists the names of local men who died in the First World War.

photo (46)

Among that obscenely long list of names are two which have a personal and emotional connection to myself-two of my great grandfathers.

One is my mum’s grandfather-Albert Cartwright.

Here he is pictured with his wife Ada as he is about to leave for war. Tall and proud in his Lancashire Fusiliers uniform.

Albert and Ada

I cannot help but contrast the image of Ada here, bidding farewell to her husband with all the fears and uncertainties that that must have involved, with the strong, confident, formidable woman she appears as on another photograph I have of her. (On the right).


Albert did return home, but died the day before new year’s eve in 1919, as a result of being gassed when at the front.

photo (44)

The other name is my Dad’s grandfather: Timothy O’Sullivan.

He died on 10th January 1917 and is buried in Thessaloniki, Greece. A local orphan who was destined to lie in foreign soil.

In those days, family members had neither the means nor the opportunity to visit the graves of their loved ones who died overseas. A family notice, placed in the local newspaper by his older half-sister, spoke of ‘the pain of an unknown grave.’

On the 90th anniversary of Timothy’s death, I stood at that grave. Conscious that his widow and children never made it there, I felt the ghosts of my gran and my great aunt looking over my shoulder. Two women who often spoke of the man they never knew. I felt I represented them, along with my Dad, and my children. All the descendants of the chain.


photo (45)

Every year on Remembrance Sunday, I take part in the service at that memorial, conscious of the links and the sacrifice and the blood that runs in my veins.

I let my daughters place a cross that holds the names of their two ancestors, along with the name of my wife’s great uncle who was worked to death as a prisoner of the Japanese, building the notorious Burma-Siam railway in World War Two.

Fred Dyson

My wife’s great uncle is the tall, strapping guy stood on the right. Fred Dyson, he died 15th Nov 1943. A generation on, a different war, the same sense of loss.

I have posted all of these photographs here to serve as a further memorial.

Every Remembrance Sunday, as well as the men who are represented by those cold, carved letters in stone, my thoughts turn also to my two grandmothers who are no longer here. Two women who I was close to, two women who as children both grew up without their fathers because of war.

That is reason alone for me, and my children, to remember.

poppy cross

10 thoughts on “Today We Remember: A Personal View

  1. Andy…
    What a lovely tribute to your ancestors.
    I think it is very important that you teach your children about their ancestors so that their memory lives on.

    It is a shame that a lot of the story telling that was so prevalent in the past is scarce these days.
    Technology has really changed all of those traditions but you are subverting the paradigm by using it to tell your ancestor’s stories.
    {I have thought of telling some of my ancestor’s/family’s stories but I haven’t done it yet}.

    Parents really teach their children volumes about life when they tell them lessons/stories of their life and their ancestors’ lives.
    {So much wisdom is imparted}.
    I am always excited to hear stories about my family and ancestors.
    {This also extends to friends and strangers}.
    I think it is part curiosity but more so just a desire to listen and learn from others.
    Perhaps that is why I love literature/books, cinema/films/movies and music because of the art of story telling.

    Thank you for sharing.
    {War is very sad}.

    Kindest Regards.


    • Thank you. Since I emerged from my ignorance by researching my family history, I am learning more and more. Walking from birth to death with people long gone. I have a greater sense of connectedness.


      • Andy…
        You are most welcome ;).
        I think we all need to research our family history- our roots.
        We can learn so much by learning about our ancestors.
        Isn’t it great to know that we don’t have to walk in their shadow but in their light?
        I think that they way we live our lives can honour our ancestors.
        What do you think?


  2. I’m always glad to look at photos at your blog. How cool that you were able to visit the gravesite of your father’s grandfather. It’s great that you have these photos. I don’t have any of my great-grandfather’s or great-grandmothers. They died long before I was born.


    • I have other photographs too. Perhaps every now and then I will feature a particular ancestor, relate their story. Or as much of it that I know of. Maybe on a particular anniversary for them. One to ponder. In doing so I may immortalise them for any other descendants who one day come (google) searching and end up on City Jackdaw. Maybe after I have gone. A nice thought.


  3. I came upon your web site purely by chance whilst researching the names on the Collyhurst War Memorial.
    I have lived in Collyhurst for the last 25 years and from day one felt I had “come home”
    It was after the bombing in 1996 that I realised that the City would never be the same again &
    I started to collect anything & everything I could l lay my hands on about Manchester & surrounding area (mainly from articles in the press). Even so it was only two years ago that I joined a local history group (Once Upon A Time) based at Manchester Communication Academy. The people I met there were amazed by how much information I had gathered (several lever arch files and many books & maps). It was then I was asked if I would consider being the Archivist for their magazine “Once Upon A Time” on a voluntary basis-I snatched their hand’s off of course!!! This has led me to where I am now, employed as the “Community Project Officer” for the Academy, my main task being collating photos & articles submitted by the members of the magazine (over 460 subscribers) in readiness for next edition & the setting up & maintaining of the archives.
    As I previously mentioned I have been researching the names & family histories behind those on Collyhurst’s War Memorial. It has been relatively easy to establish who many of these brave men were ie their occupations, next of kin, where they had lived and their service records. However there remain some that are elusive (your great Grandfather Albert being one of them!). There are about 15 more names that I cannot find any details for (I suspect this could be due to incorrect spelling on the memorial itself, some men have only their surname recorded, & many other such irregularities).
    I am now beginning to plot the addresses of these men on a map of Collyhurst – the picture this presents is heart breaking. The devastation that our community suffered is catastrophic.

    We should never forget.
    These men deserve to be remembered & revered for who they were & what they did for us.

    I am not really sure what my reason for doing this was initially, however I now hope that by raising awareness of those on our memorial may have gone just a little way towards bringing our men back home. .

    If you can offer any suggestions as to how I could shed some light on these issues I would be extremely grateful.


    • Hi Amanda,
      Wow!! That is something special that you are doing-and important too. Keeping these men alive in the communal memory of the town that they came from. I wish there were more people like you-it would make things a lot easier for people like me doing family history!

      I can supply with you any information you want about my two gt grandfathers-Timothy O’Sullivan and Albert Cartwright. Histories (as much I know, photographs, etc).

      As for the others-have you searched on the Commonwealth War Graves site? You can list their names, the war in which they served, and narrow down results by their home addresses.


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