Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Visit with Great "Uncle Martin", Part 2

When my cousin Joe went to see Uncle Martin in 1993, Uncle Martin was 93 years old at the time. Joe found him living in a nursing home in Nassau County, Long Island New York. He had heard the story of Uncle Martin growing up in Lakeview Harbour Main and wanted to talk with him about his life and about his older brother Michael, Joe's grandfather. Uncle Martin had been away from Newfoundland for a long time,  but he was the last living relative of Joe's grandfather's generation.

Joe told me, as he entered the nursing home he remembers seeing an elderly man in a wheelchair near the front door. He was wearing a "Salt and Pepper" Cap and red flannel shirt, they said hello and Joe proceeded down the hallway to the Nurse's station and asked where he could find Martin Flynn.  The nurse took Joe back to were he came in, to the man with the "Salt and Pepper" Cap and red flannel shirt.( The "Salt and Pepper" Cap is a traditional cap worn by Newfoundland hard working men.)

After explaining who he was, Joe began his visit with Great Uncle Martin.  Uncle Martin recalled his early years as a young man when he first came to America.  "I came to Sydney, Great Britain, from there I went to Halifax, came across the boarder from my brother Pat, who lived in Hamilton Ontario, where I worked for about a year and came away with one of his children."  later in the conversation, Uncle Martin states that he was in Bell Island for a while, mentions Labrador and that he "moved around a lot" before coming the States. Being 93 years old, it was a little difficult at times for Uncle Martin to summons the exact details of certain times of his life, overall he did very well and as Joe described "He was a pleasant old man, full of stories about home."

Joe asked, " What did you do? Where you an Iron Worker?
Uncle Martin replied, "Yes, when I started out, see that Water Tower over there? I worked on that, back in the day you worked long hours, 10-12 hours a day, not like they do today! When I came to the States, I had about 18 - 19 dollars, that was a lot of money back then". Uncle Martin went on to say, he was a steel climber, and when asked if he was afraid of heights, he replied, "No, I wasn't afraid of heights, Oh No! I wasn't afraid of anything like that!,  My brothers would say, Jesus Christ, you shouldn't do that, you might fall off." Uncle Martin then laughed.

Uncle Ray shared the story he was told as a young boy, that Uncle Martin went off to WWI at a very young age, too young to join the war and that he never returned to Newfoundland.  When Joe asked Uncle Martin about being in WWI, at first he did not have any recollection. Joe asked," Were you in the war? there was a long pause, Uncle Martin's response was a question, "War?" another long pause followed, you could tell he was really thinking back in time, Joe, "You were too young, so you didn't go to war?, Uncle Martin, "No", Another pause, " I do remember something!, I was up through the Dardanelles, I can't seem to get it all together."  Joe, "That was near Turkey?, So you were in the War!" Uncle Martin replied, "I believe I was".

In 1915, during WWI, the Western Allies sent a massive invasion force of British, Indian, Australian, and new Zealand troops to attempt to open up the Dardanelles Strait which connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara in Northwestern Turkey. [1]  Uncle Martin was part of the British Forces and was 15 years old at the time.

Imagine trying to recall something that happen 80 years prior!  I think experiences like war and hardship can sometimes be pushed to far corners of our memory. The story fits the unidentified photo I found in the Flynn Family Photo Collection and also is a fit to the story my Uncle Ray was told as a young boy about his Uncle Martin.


 [1]  "Dardanelles", Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

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