Wednesday, 19 August 2009

"I can show you a photograph"

We had visitors and we had been talking about the Port River. My great-grandfather was a ship's pilot and he, along with another man, were the two who first mapped the misnamed inlet. There are streets named after both men in the nearby suburb. I think they would be disappointed by 'the Port' now. The number of vessels berthed there gets less each year. Even the 'Outer Harbour' has few ships.
But, my paternal great-grandfather came out from Scotland to work the waterway. We have a photograph of him looking solemnly out from behind a full, dark beard. If I look at my father, my brother and other relatives I can see the strong family resemblance. I am told people can see it in me as well. We have a family history full of such photographs.
I took the book off the shelf where it usually sits and flipped casually through it to find the photograph we were talking about. We looked. Then one of our visitors took the book and looked slowly through it. Occasionally she would look up at me and then look at another photograph.
"Yes, you are one of them aren't you?" she said when she reached the end, "Aren't you lucky?"
I know I am lucky. I have a whole clan behind me, a close knit clan. It is the sort of clan that allows Dad's first cousin once removed to 'phone last night and ask if he can come up to use my father's lathe today. Of course he can. The job will take most of the day so he will stay for lunch.
He's family.
And I realised again that I am lucky. Most people do not have that sort of family. They might have grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins in varying degrees. They do not all have clan. Those of us who have clan have something very special indeed.