Thursday, 12 February 2009

An attempt to trace my Canadian father

my father
I am trying to trace my natural father. My mother believed his first name is Andrew (or perhaps Andre). I DO NOT HAVE HIS SURNAME. What I do possess is a photo (detail above) which I have placed on this page, followed by a recent picture of myself (below):
Self

The photo of my father (top) is a close-up from a larger snap in which he is sitting with my mother (below). It was taken in 'The Canteen Club' in (I think) Fort Anne, or possibly Fort Chambly, near the towns of Soest or Werl in Germany. Here is the full photograph:
my father sitting with my mother in 'The Canteen Club', Fort Chambly, 1956

Here is a summary of what I have learned, including information sent to me by Canadian ex-service personnel:

He was/is Canadian and most likely French Canadian (this is what my mother believes anyway).

He was a Private with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (RCAMC) when he met my mother.

He would (most likely) have been born between 1915 and 1925.

His first name was (according to my mother) Andrew, though he might also be known by the French equivalent, Andre (SURNAME UNKNOWN).

I have been told that his uniform identifies him (apart from being in the RCAMC) as wearing a "Group B Tradesman" patch (or a qualified Tradesman, Class II, if these are not the same thing).

He was (very possibly) with 1 Field Ambulance, stationed at one of a number of bases near the towns of Soest and Werl in North Germany in 1956. My mother met him there in 1956 while working for the WVS. Her name was then Sheila MacAllister

The photo below shows them sitting together in the canteen (presumably at Fort Anne or Fort Chambly).

I was born in London in 1957 and brought up in Dublin, Ireland, by my mother and grandparents. My name, Granier, is French, BUT IT IS NOT MY FATHER'S SURNAME. My mother chose it by Deed Poll after I was born. I had a happy and secure childhood, and never felt acutely conscious of my father's absence. However, as I grow older that absence is becoming more pronounced, a presence in its own right. And the fact that I have one haunting photograph of him, and that he looks strikingly like me, makes my search seem still more imperative.

I am a writer, photographer and teacher of creative writing based in Dublin, Ireland. I have published four collections of poetry. Here is something I wrote about my father, or his absence (from my fourth, 2015 collection, Haunt):

Father’s Day

It seems, now, I will never find
your shoes, father, let alone fit in them,
though I still hope to follow the cold trail
of adventure in your smile, your spark
that landed me here, where
even though I am a father in my turn,
my footing is far from certain.

Rumours rustle in the visible
branches of my family tree. An uncle
traced you, found a married man. But no
he did not (or maybe it slipped his mind).
A cousin heard you might have lived in Medicine Hat ––
Medicine Hat! Such a marvellous name
I tried it on for size, for a while.

A French Canadian soldier, my mother said,
neglecting to mention which war
claimed you, so I grew up thinking
World War Two, realising eventually
it finished a decade too early.
Tentative questions raised that flicker of pain,
slaps from a self-interrogation.

Have I other half-brothers? Sisters?
How many of your whip-tailed seeds made it home?
I suppose you’re gone now, burned
or buried, dog-tagged in stone,
but until I can mark, encircle
wherever you hung your hat, you’ll remain
enchanted, undead, prone, your face

furiously shifting and running, fast-
forwarding weather, the everyday
sky convoys, sea’s military colours,
crowd-faces in the street, on TV, armies
of old men –– all and none
remind me of you. My known
unknown, how have you shrunk, grown?


All I want to do is learn something about my origins, those invisible branches on my family tree. ANY information or advice is welcome. If anyone has any ideas please don't hesitate to drop me a note at: markgranier@gmail.com