Judith Fell is third generation Irish. She is a retired teacher now living in Australia.
On our refrigerator in our kitchen in Armidale NSW Australia, is a magnet that states simply: “Life is too short not to be Irish!”
An Irish flag adorns the wall in my study; pictures of Ireland and books about Irish history, philosophy and poetry live in our bookshelves.
Irish music is a big part of our everyday existence.
The words of well-known Irish songs live in my head and I can often be heard singing or whistling an Irish song as I go about my daily life. Everyone who knows me knows of my great interest and love for Ireland and her people.
In my father’s family there were eleven brothers and sisters. Over the years the old aunts and uncles have passed on to my sisters and myself and to our many cousins, a love of all things Irish.
We love a good get-together as a stage to sing and make music together, to tell our stories, to laugh and have fun. We love nothing better than to have a drink together and sometimes a good old friendly argument.
On my first visit to Ireland, something of what I found there in the Irish people rang so true to my family experience here in Australia.
I take my Irish heritage very seriously. I hold it very dear to my heart. Although a third generation Australian woman, I will never forget the old country from whence my ancestors came. Ireland lives in my soul. Being part Irish walks with me, guides me and completes me. Being of Irish heritage is a very large part of who I consider myself to be and I am very proud of it. My love and loyalty to Ireland is strong and fierce and will not ever fade. My father’s family has ensured that this loyalty and love has been well cemented and will continue to be passed down from generation to generation of Irish-Australian children in our family.
I was born and grew up on a wheat, sheep and cattle farm in a rural area of North Western NSW. I was the middle child of three sisters. Although not particularly wealthy, our lives were rich in terms of love and family life.
My mother’s great grandparents came to Australia from England. In another life they were famous potters, the name Minton synonymous with fine China. They arrived out here in the 1800’s as free settlers, hailing mostly from Stoke-on-Trent.
As far as we know, my father’s fraternal ancestors were originally from Flanders before moving to Wales and then to County Cork in Ireland. My grandmother’s family was from County Fermanagh in the North of Ireland.
It is said that there was much angst in the family when our grandmother Margaret Emily, married an Irish-Catholic, my grandfather Michael William Roache whose family had come to Australia from County Cork!
In Australia the division between catholic and protestant was extremely evident throughout my own childhood and even beyond.
The Roches had quite a fair share in Irish history after arriving there from Wales in 1167. It is said they built many castles, abbeys or churches, some of which are still intact. The activities of the various branches of the Roche family in Ireland are well documented.
I have grown up knowing the significance of the three fishes on the Roche Coat of Arms. “My God is my Rock” has remained our family motto. This knowledge it seems to me even at the level of the subconscious, helps to shape the person you become. This knowledge has been passed down as important family information never to be lost and is one way that the history of our Irish beginning lives on in this Australian family so far away.