“FOUR-SCORE & FORWARD” Chapter 4
by Desmond Kelly ‘the Star of eLanka’
Dad had invited his father to come in and meet his first grandson and “Grand-na” accepted the invitation.
All I remember at the time was that my grand-father came in, took off the brown “Fedora” hat he always wore, said “hello” to dad & mum, sat down and took me on his knee. I remember looking into two twinkling, very blue Irish eyes. Another long-past song hit? comes to mind. “When Irish eyes are smiling” How true, this was. My grandfather never had to “show his teeth” in a smile. He never had to throw back his head and roar with laughter either. A little “chuckle” & his “eyes” did the smiling. Much much later, I had the chance to see the same eyes when he was angry about something. There is a very true saying that the eyes are the window to the soul. Jack Kelly, my grandfather, was an extremely handsome young man.
He wasn’t built like Charles Atlas, wasn’t 6 foot, 12 inches tall, but was still a forminable figure of a man.
He was one of two brothers, the other was named James, born in Dublin, where the “original” name. Kelly had an “O” before it (we were first known as the O’Kellys) . How true is it? , “Family values” go down thru the passages of history” (my own original quote), Right as far back as I can remember, the Kellys’ were all “Animal-Lovers”. Big or small, short or tall, from Elephants to Mice, from a Rhino to a Giraffe, Birds (of the feathered variety), Reptiles (who will only sting you to protect themselves) ,unlike some of the “human” ones who “sting” you only when they need your help.
Even today, at “four-score & one”, I can honestly say that I cannot even purposely kill an Ant. I can also honestly say that I would not hesitate to shoot another human, BUT only in self-defence. If any member of my family or I was ever threatened, I would much rather kill than “be killed”. There is no need for “bull-crap” in an “Autobiog.”, you’ve got to say it like it is.
James Kelly, my grand-dad’s brother lived his whole life in Dublin. Before he retired, he attained the post of the Manager of the Dublin Zoological Gardens, ar that time, one of the largest Zoos in the World. I don’t have to elaborate on the fact that one WOULD have to love & have an affinity with all animals in order to get & keep a job like that. This is all I know about my
“grand-uncle” James Kelly. The fact that he got & kept this job in this zoo for many years proves, I suppose, that he was indeed an excellent “Manager”.
Jack Kelly was the only “grand-parent” that I knew.
Dad’s mum, Marion Kelly nee Foenander died, sadly, while her family, Carlo (dad), Doreen, & youngest daughter, another Marion, were all quite young & so I never did get to meet an extremely beautiful lady. I am not too certain as to how many times Jack Kelly got married, but there was this photograph of an elegant, much older Scottish lady, whose maiden name was Kynoch, in a photograph, posing with my aunt Doreen.
This lady might have also been a relation of my uncle Earl Assauw, who married Doreen, or, she may have been Jack Kelly’s first wife, in Dublin. Jack Kelly then migrated to Ceylon where he met Marion Foenander and produced three children from the marriage, but after my grandmother passed on, he met this other lady by the name of Stella Kelly (same proud surname) & they were living together when I came into the picture. Whether they got married or not, I really don’t know, but there were no more children in that alliance & we always called this lady Aunt Stella.So, by rights, Jack & Stella were the only grandparents I knew.
On mum’s side, I am not even aware as to what his first name was. All we knew was that he was known as “Dada Kriekenbeek”, tough, rough, Country-style “Dutchie”, married a Miss Wooton (I think), although she had passed -away by the time I was born, & Dada went to live with his eldest daughter Iorine (Iris) in Wattala, Colombo . Dada Kriekenbeek had 2 sons, Anton & Shelly+ 3 daughters, Iris, Ouida & Lyn (mum).
He, (Dada), was as tough a disciplinarian as anyone would want to know. He “threw-out” both sons while they were still quite young. My Uncle Anton was then “adopted” by a wealthy Sinhalese couple who treated him so very much better than his own father did, educated him, got him involved with the Europeans who “ran” most of the tea estates in Ceylon, at the time, he took on the name of “Freeman” & went on to be the Superintendant of one of the largest “estates” in the lowland area of Ceylon, before he migrated to Sydney Australia, where Anton Freeman died a few years ago.
Shelly Kriekenbeek, who was an excellent carpenter/ handyman, moved to a little Village in Ceylon, married a Sinhalese lady, had two girls by her, Pearl & Sylvia, & died, I presume in the little Village named Waaduwa.
Mum’s two elder sisters, Iris & Ouida, married two brothers, Hugh & Roy Demmer. Both were Railwaymen with the C.G.R. (Ceylon Govt.Railwqy) & had 6 children between them, my cousins, Estelle, Eardley & Joan(Iris) & Vilma, Maureen & Audrey (Ouida). The only one still living, as I write this, is Audrey (youngest daughter of Aunt Ouida) . Grandmother Kriekenbeek, I never knew, as she died before I was born.
Anyway, back to our very first home, Unit 2, Fife Rd, Thimbirigasaya, a tiny suburb off Havelock Town, in central Colombo. If I remember it correctly, they were only very small Units, about 12 of them. Two-bedroom, tiny lounge area & kitchen. The front yard, at our place, featured a dwarf-palm tree & not much else.
The back yard, narrow & forlorn, had a featured six-foot high timber fence, running along all 12 Units & “overlooking” a rather spacious field where tacehorses were trained by a Mr.Walles, to run on the Havelock racecourse, nearby.
I was.probably around two years old, when I remember this girl Barbara, from one of the neighbouring Units, coming over to stand me on a chair overlooking the back fence to watch the racehorses train. She was buxom, was Barbara, & as she put her arms around me to stop me falling off the chair, I remember feeling very comfortable indeed, between two rather large breasts. She must have felt good & motherly too, because, she came often & I cannot remember ever refusing to be “held” by her.
Of course, I got a bit of a thrill watching the galloping racehorses as well. I guess I have always preferred my “women” to be slightly older than me, but this was ridiculous, Babs had to be at least sixteen years my senior. To be fair, she loved racehorses too. The other things I remember about Fife Road was a lady-neighbour by the name of Mrs.Loos who was “expecting” at the time (to me, she just had a big tummy)& mum was always going over to help her & this made me hqppy because, qt the same time, Babs was coming over to help me (look at the racehorses).
Time was flying by, and before you know it I was about three years old, when, one evening, Dad took me over to the Burgher Recreation Club Ground, which, at the time, I remember, seemed more like a big park to me. There, the Ceylon Police Band were rehearsing their music,. This would have had to be the very first time I had heard a military-style band playing. Really, this would have had to be the very first time I heard ANY band playing. Dad was watching me as I suddenly picked up a twig & , as though I had been an exoerienced “Conductor” in another life, I started waving the twig to & fro, to the cadence of the music.
Dad didn’t say anything to me. I think he was a bit stunned, but I heard him tell Mum that my “conducting” was almost perfect. This started fairly regular “visits” to the park. Sometimes the band was there, doing their thing & Dad would pick up a twig & put it into my hand. Sometimes, I “Conducted” sometimes, I had other things to do like just run around. Most times, the band wasn’t there anyway, but this was the beginning of my “timing of all sorts of music”something I have never ever forgotten & something that is imperative when music is being played or songs are being sung.
So, my young life was already very interesting. Nearly four, my first memory was formed in Wattala, at the home of my Uncle Hugh & Iris Demmer, in a “cot”, either suffering ear-ache or burning with fever,crying out for a song called “Oh, wonderful child” played on Aunt Iris’s new H.M.V. gramaphone, recorded on a big 33 point something vinyl disc., by a very young Gene Autry,I think. Then, to top it off, I got Pnuemonia & nearly carked it, but even then, Country Music seemed to be the only thing I wanted, to make me feel better.
Then Dad found us the “unit” in Thimbirigasaya, which was our second “move”.
Then, all of a sudden, “Mummy’s tummy” started to swell out, like Mrs.Loos’s had done, it was September 1939, World War 2 had just started and Dad, whose LIFE was his family, decided that we should move away from Colombo Central to possibly avoid one of Mr.Adolph Hitler’s bombs or Emperor Hirahitho’s “torpedo’s & go into the “backwoods” of Colombo. He got the help of Uncle Fred de Kretser, who had married is young sister, Aunt Marion & “rented” this very large house, very clise to the Moratuwa Railway Station.
You see, Uncle Fred, was also in the Ceylon Government Railway & served them as an Engine Driver. What has this to do with Moratuwa? , Well Moratuwa was the main Southern-most Raikway Station, where trains would “turn around” to head back to Colombo Fort, and U.Fred knew many people there, one of them being the owner of the house we rented, whose name I remember as T.M.Fernando.
This being the case, it was.goodbye, Fife Road, goodbye, the usual “angili” biscuits, & Grandna, .goodbye Mrs Loos and her new baby, goodbye Barbara and her bosoms & HELLO MORATUWA.
Neil, please keep for future reference & do not print now. Regards. Des. (Moratuwa follows). Same procedure. D.K.