People seem to enjoy hearing about my Irish Mum, and recently, I’ve had several requests to share more about her. So with admiration and dedication to my beloved mother, Evelyn Vance Taylor, I decided to share some old photographs and a few fond memories about my Mother, and the fact she was known as a War Bride during WWII.
In Belfast, Northern Ireland – 1942, my Mum (at the young age of 17) was recruited by the British Army. From what I was told, my grandmother wasn’t at all pleased hearing my Mum had enlisted without her consent. In those days, there wasn’t too much my grandmother could do to stop this. I found an entry listed in her Army pay book stating her first year was classified as “training”. Everyone remarks about my Mum’s beautiful, long and thick auburn hair. I remember her telling me about the day she went to the barber to have her hair cut. The man was so impressed by my Mum’s hair, he felt it a pity to cut it off. My Mum remembered how he sighed, shaking his head, and then put the razor down and pulled out a drawer. He quickly handed her a hairnet, and taught her how to tie her thick hair and hide it neatly beneath the netting.
Doing a wee bit of research of my own, I discovered that Northern Ireland was known as the first place American troops landed and stepped foot, in WWII. During the war, there were approximately 70,000 British immigrants with one thing in common, they were war brides. Many of these women fell in love with the idea of going to a strange, new world to begin an exciting and better life than what they were used to. I remember my Mum telling me about the many nights of “blackouts” due to the bombings. The majority of women expected better living conditions in the States, and in reality – and to many dismays, these women moved to living conditions much worse than they grew up in. (my own Mum came to a home without any indoor plumbing, but my American grandfather soon fixed that)
notice the “good luck” horse shoe with the black cat, at bottom of cake.
I’ll always remember how my Daddy would sit and smile, listening to my Mum tell me how they met. There was food and a dance offered to the troops at a nearby center in Belfast (which unfortunately, I don’t have the name of). A handsome private asked my mother to dance, but in the middle of the dance, she remembered her arm being lifted higher in the air – my father had decided to “cut in”. He had been watching my mother from the sidelines and decided to introduce himself. My father was a 6’4 tall, quiet man, and my mum, only 5’1. I believe it was love at first sight for the both of them. He gently took her hand and led her outside, under the full moon – and was introduced to her family within the next few days. My father was much liked, treated very well, and soon welcomed into the family. My grandparents finally gave their blessings to both my parents for their future marriage.
I can’t imagine the courage it took to travel to a new world, with no friends of family of her own, to begin a new life. She traveled by ship with other women coming to the states, for approximately 2 weeks. The first thing in this country to welcome her, was the Statue of Liberty. I’m proud to share photos of the handwritten letter my Mum wrote and read to the judge, the day she became a citizen of the US. She received her citizenship in the local court house in Carroll County, Maryland, in November, 1949.
To this day, I have many regrets that I didn’t pay more attention to my Mum’s heritage. I believed my parents would always “be there”, but unfortunately they both died when they were still young and I was in my thirties. I never wrote down, or found more information on my grandparents and uncles, other than what my Mum would reminisce. It’s not as easy in Northern Ireland to get records as it is here. Most records during the time periods my grandparents lived are only available at churches. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to track anything down during my visits, even with my Mum’s birth certificate, and army papers.
My Mum came from a family of avid storytellers, and I’m proud to be able to carry on that tradition. I own three photographs of my grandparents. I’m honored to share one of my grandmother (Alice) holding my mother as a wee babe, and the other of my distinguished looking grandfather, Thomas Vance. And yes, my Mum did believe in the wee people and fairies. She told me stories of how her father and uncles would leave a bottle of whisky out on the porch at night for the leprechauns, and how it was gone by the next morning. Of course my Daddy always laughed and said he knew how it disappeared . . . and my Mum’s pretty face would blush before getting her Irish temper riled up, and with her thick brogue, she moved on to another story . . . . about the wee fairies . . .
I remember my Mum being terribly homesick, and I dreamed of seeing her home. To this day, I’ll always regret missing the opportunity of not visiting Ireland with both my parents when I was younger, or having the opportunity to meet more of my family. Recently I was blessed to visit my Mum’s family and homeland, three separate times within the past several years.
In my heart, I know my Mum was with me every step of the way . . . She had a habit of stuffing twenty dollar bills in my purse, or someplace where she knew I was bound to find them. On my last visit, in the lovely Fairy Glens of Antrim, walking back from a waterfall, there was a twenty pound note on the ground, that wasn’t there when we started – and no one else had recently been in the area. . . .
I feel fortunate, my beloved Mum taught me to have faith and believe, and never give up on my dreams. And for that, I will always be grateful. . . I hope you enjoyed seeing a few photos I have left in my parents old family album. Something I’ll treasure for always . . .
Please feel free to leave a comment. So, until next time, bye for now.