Unanswered questions

Dec 9th, 2008 | By | Category: Personal Columns

tullybrannigan-gravestone.jpgI hope Pat likes poinsettias.  We placed a fiery red poinsettia plant on her grave on the slopes of Slieve Donard this morning.

Then I went and stood at the Kaiser grave, pointing it out to  Katharine and asking the questions I asked in April of last year.

“Who were the Kaisers whose little boy, Frederick Ronald Cecil, died at the age of 14 months? Kaiser is hardly a typical Irish name: were they a family who were here briefly before moving elsewhere? Would that explain why the little boy’s memorial stands alone? Frederick William was the name of the German monarch, did the little boy’s grandparents deliberately name their son after a man who would have been heir to the German throne at the time of their son’s birth?

Where did the Kaisers go afterwards? Did they move away? Or did they Anglicise their name and become King instead blending into the population around, in the way that the Battenbergs became Mountbatten?

What was their line of business? They seem to have been comfortably middle class to have a white stone memorial for their infant son. It is elegant, but also has an understated dignity about it. There is nothing brash or oversentimental, just a recording of the facts and a simple Bible verse.

What intrigues me most is the recording of little Frederick Ronald Cecil’s parents’ names. This is the Edwardian era, just after the death of Victoria in 1901. This is in Ulster, possibly the most socially conservative corner of the United Kindom. Frederick Ronald is the dear beloved child of “Ann and Frederick William”, in that order. This is a profound statement.

Young Frederick is called after his father, he is the fruition of the hope for a son, he is the one who will carry on the family name, his death would have stirred the most profound grief in the heart of Frederick William, but greater than that grief would have been the grief of the child’s mother. The inexpressible grief of Ann is conveyed in the subtlest and most gentle of ways, in a patriarchal age where women’s rights were minimal and where men always took pre-eminence, Ann is named as the first of the parents. Even the stonemason would have queried this ordering of the inscription, Frederick William must have had to hold firmly to his conviction that the love of his wife for their son must be publicly acknowledged.

I think Frederick William Kaiser is a man for whom I would have had great respect.”

“Hmmm!”, said Katharine, when I tried to explain these thoughts.  She prefers trying to answer questions that might have an answer, rather than those which will remained unanswered on this side of eternity.

There was a chill wind in Tullybrannigan; it was not a day to linger long pondering gravestones.

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  1. I guess we’ll never know! I’m not really one for pondering gravestones. In fact my own deceased family members would ‘turn’ in their graves if they knew I never visited. Perhaps someone like you sees their little plaques and ponders their lives and achievements.

  2. I agree, Ian – that Kaiser headstone is fascinating.

    It would be fantastic if this post were to come to the attention of someone who could answer your questions.

    I love the way headstones bring history alive.

  3. I wonder how we could begin that search… maybe someday a relative will emerge with the information… would anyone be interested enough to make a tv documentary about it?

  4. Looking for a birth record for May 1901 either in our
    Records here or in Belfast would be the place to start,Kaiser being an unusual surname, it would be easy to find if the child was born in the district of the Church Graveyard. This would give the Mother’s maiden name and the father’s Profession,often giving more clues to identity of the family.
    Also the baptismal records could be checked in the Church, as the child may have been baptised there. This record, from memory from my own family research, may give the father’s profession and possibly the family address.
    The death record too for the child,will give cause of death, parent’s name and possibly family address, As with the birth cert. I would start with the locality
    of the graveyard and Church. His mother Ann may have been from the area.
    The 1901 census too, available for all of this island, may be another source for finding this family, a month before the birth of the child, if they were resident then, again I would start with the
    townland or locality of the Church.
    After that, German birth records………..

  5. I tried Google and the LDS genealogy website – no-one of the name.

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