Guess who’s coming to dinner…my ancestors.


Julie over on Angler’s Rest totally inspired me to write this post in her story for NaBloPoMo on Relatives. Thanks Julie for the inspiration!

I’d love to welcome my earliest Australian ancestors to an early evening dinner party so I could get to meet them as real people. I think it would have to be a typical outdoor event, under the shade of a spreading Banyan tree or a Moreton Bay fig so everyone felt at home. We’d have long tables and folding chairs. I’d buy some brightly-coloured melamine plates and drinking glasses to match pretty place mats and napkins (of course).  Hurricane lamps with lightly scented candles would light the tables so the mood was familiar and cosy, and I’d hang some lamps from the trees.

To welcome everyone we’d have a good malt beer to honour my Kent family who were Hertfordshire publicans…before they became Methodists…and some spring water for those who were traditionally abstemious. Thinking on my maternal 2x great grandfather, William Partridge from Coleford, I think we’d need a good Gloucester cheese to go with the beer.

We would have to serve roast pork in honour of my Bavarian 2 x great grandfather, George Kunkel, who was a pork butcher. Instead of slaving over a hot oven in the kitchen we’d cook the pork in our Weber Q – would that seem familiar to them or somewhat wondrous? George also made his own wine and so we’d drink a white wine similar to that traditional in his birthplace…and again that spring water.

The pork would be accompanied by crispy roast tatties for my Irish ancestors, Mary O’Brien Kunkel and the Gavin and (Mc)Sherry families, and, come to that, my Highlanders, the McCorkindales. We might even introduce them to multi-cultural 21st century Australia with an Asian-inspired salad as an accompaniment.

While we ate we’d play some Scottish reels and Irish fiddle music to cross the cultural borders of my ancestry. How much nicer it would be to have a real fiddler play rather than a 21st century i-touch and if our feet wouldn’t stop tapping, we’d dance a quick reel in the twilight. There are so many questions I’d love to ask my ancestral visitors about their lives…another reason to keep that wine and beer flowing. I think they’ll be glad to escape by the end of the night!

McCorkindale brothers informal jam session. Gift of a family member c1988.

Dessert would certainly have to be spectacular to impress my pastry chef ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, with perhaps a real Aussie pavlova (great pic) decorated with King Island cream and superb fruits like passionfruit, mango, kiwi fruit and fresh summer berries. Maybe we could even buy some delicious Haig’s hand-made chocolates to see if they match SGM’s standards…I’m realistic here, I couldn’t make them myself.

As this wonderful inter-temporal gathering came to a close, I would ask one of my McCorkindale great-uncles to play Auld Lang Syne on the pipes, and with a wee dram, toast the courage of these ancestors who came to Australia. I’ve nary a doubt I’d share more than a few tears as I farewelled my guests who’d visited all too briefly.

I raise my glass to all my Aussie immigrants: George Kunkel and Mary O’Brien, Denis and Ellen Gavin, Annie Sim McCorkindale and her adult daughter Catherine, Peter and Mary McSherry/Sherry and their son James Joseph, Stephen Melvin and later his mother Margaret Gillespie Melvin/Ward/Wheaton, James and Bridget McSharry/Sherry, Richard and Mary Kent and their adult daughter Hannah and her future husband William Partridge.

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12 thoughts on “Guess who’s coming to dinner…my ancestors.

  1. Sounds like a wonderful evening. Now I’m thinking about what I would serve my ancestors if they came to dinner. Wouldn’t that be great? Would they finally answer those questions? Were they just waiting to be asked?

    • You may be right -they’re thinking “why should I answer your impertinent quesions Missy when you haven’t even offered me some refreshment”. As to the questions…I think that might be another post…I ran out of room.

  2. Pingback: The Banyan Trees – Frog Hollow Darwin | Tropical Territory

  3. Wish I could get an invite to that dinner! I think my ancestral dinner could be very interesting… with Greek, Irish and English on my side, then add hubby’s with Irish, English and Indian.. that could be a very interesting feast…

  4. It be wonderful if we could somehow get into a time machine and have dinner with our ancestors. I feel like I know a couple of my ancestors really well–though of course I never can really understand what it was like in the past. I’d love to have the opportunity to chat with some of them as friends.

    • I have been thinking about who I would invite to dinner and if I could have an ancestor over every Sunday for a year, who I would invite and what I would serve and what I would ask. And then I started wondering if I could alternate a visit from one of them with a visit to one of them… A thought provoking idea.

      • What a good idea to get a year’s worth of visits! I also like the thought of being able to visit them as well -why not since we’re letting our imaginations run loose.

    • Yes, me too Sheryl. I’ve been thinking about the questions I’d like to ask them beyond those “brick wall” problems but I’d really like to know how they felt about their lives and what happened to them….”as friends” captures that idea.

  5. I spent some time earlier this week pondering further on which ancestors I could visit. Here is that small post.
    http://anglersrest.blogspot.com/2012/02/nablopomo-february-2012-relative-day-5.html

    I do wonder, a few days later whether I should add more depth my “visit” – transportation, dress and food differences. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to physically walk in the past, with perhaps a hint of modern technology so that we could record such an event!

    I especially like Kirstin’s suggestion of an ancestor over to Sunday lunch each week!

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