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October 27, 2006

Names and places ...

I was asked recently where I had got the idea for my book. It's a long story really, but it has been bubbling away for a while in my head. Many of the places I have described (the one's on earth anyway!) actually exist and many have a family connection. The house in the photograph in this post is the one I have described as Harry Heron's home in Ulster, on the shoulder of Scrabo and overlooking Strangford Lough to the South East and Newtownards to the East. In my grandfather's childhood it belonged to his uncle and he helped with the harvest and various other things on the farm - as all children did in the early years of the twentieth century and for time immemorial before that.

Harrys house.JPG
The house still sits on the High Road along the eastern flank of Scrabo, having been extended and remodelled a couple of times in its long histoory.

Among the things which sparked the kernal of the idea for this book was the recent discovery of a great deal more of my grandfather's history. A Sergeant in the Royal Garrison Artillery at 16 and a half - the army records have it as 19 and a half - he had survived by that point the slaughter of the Somme in which his original Regiment ceased to exist and been retrained and reposted to the RGA. Why? Because with half his thigh missing he was no longer fit for the infantry! He and his lifelong friend were both wounded on the first day of the Somme and lay in no man's land for two days before they were found and taken back to a field hospital. It was the maggots in their wounds that saved them from losing limbs and probably their lives.

He was a remarkable man - born when horses were still the chief mode of transport and of agricultural power, he saw the growth of steam power, its replacement by internal combustion engines, the first flights and men on the moon. He never stopped wondering about life and the wonders of the world around him and he never let his friends down when they needed him. He died almost penniless, but loved by a huge number of people - the church overflowed at his funeral and the rich and famous rubbed shoulders with the many who had nothing at all. He left Ireland in 1921 and never went home, although he never lost his love for the country he was born in and supported his mother and sister until their deaths and finally his.

Why did I start my story with Harry aged 15? Because Henry Nelson Heron was 15 when he joined the Enniskillen Fusiliers and 16 years 1 month and ten days when he was almost killed on the Somme.

I hope you'll like the book!

Posted by The Gray Monk at October 27, 2006 06:43 PM

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