Category: Events

Love Lost

A WW1 story of romance, tragedy, family secrets, discovery and commemoration

george-paysden-suitbGeorge William Paysden (1895 – 1916)

11 October 2016, marked the 100th anniversary of George William Paysden’s death. His grandson Bert Groves recently visited George’s grave in Bailleul, Northern France. George was with the Royal Irish Rifles and survived the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. However, he then moved north to the villages of Loker and Dranouter where he was killed in action. George was awarded the Military Medal for bravery.   

gp-gravemarkerGeorge wasn’t married but he left a sweetheart behind in Belfast. Annie McMullan gave birth to George’s daughter Doreen while he was in France. One can only begin to imagine how Annie felt when she learnt of George’s death. Many years later Doreen married and subsequently gave birth to George’s Grandson, Bert Groves.


The birth of Doreen was kept secret from almost the entire family. My Grandmother, George’s sister, didn’t know about Doreen. While Doreen was in the RAF she struck up a lifelong friendship with her cousin and my aunt, Jessie Kendal. We believe they never knew they were actually cousins. Two years ago, Bert Groves, a fellow enthusiast of family history, tracked me down. Bert and I, along with John Paysden, have developed a close friendship and continue to unearth our joint family history.

sammy-kendal-bailleul-2004-bMy Father, Sammy Kendal, had heard many wonderful stories about his Uncle George. In 2004 he and I became the first members of the family to visit George’s grave in Bailleul. When we eventually found George’s grave, my father knelt down and tears rolled down his face. It was a very emotional occasion.

The song, The Green Fields of France, include the following lines. I think are very appropriate in this instance

Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind

In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined

And though you died back in nineteen sixteen

In some faith full heart are you forever nineteen

Do you have a similar story?

Post it to me at:  [email protected]


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25 April is ANZAC Day

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. The date marks the anniversary of the first campaign that led to major casualties for Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.


Gallipoli Campaign

In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula. The objective was to capture Constantinople. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Army commanded by Mustafa Kemal (later known as Atatürk). The war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on.

At the end of 1915, the Allied forces were evacuated. Both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. The casualities numbered 21,255 from the UK including 4,000 Irish soldiers from the Royal Irish Fusiliers, almost 10,000 dead soldiers from France, 8,709 from Australia, 2,721 from New Zealand, 1,358 from India and 57,000 of the Ottoman Army.

Respect: Turkish Soldier carries wounded Australian. © Clay Gilliland

Royal Irish Rifles at Gallipoli







News of the landing at Gallipoli had a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders. Today many of them commemorate the sacrifice of those who died in various conflicts but at the same time they are all too aware of war’s potential futility. I think my relatives in Australia and New Zealand including Maureen, Sandra, Louise and Liz will appreciate the following version of Waltzing Matilda.

One World, One Nation



St Patrick’s Day

Saturday, 17 March is

St Patrick’s Day


It belongs to all of us. So let us celebrate together

Whether you are from Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, USA, Canada, South America, China, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Africa, The Middle East or Russia. C’mon in, the craic is mighty!!!

You can’t get much further away from Ireland but Sydney’s St Patrick’s Day Flash Mob certainly know how to mark the occasion.

And what would St Patrick’s Day be without a wee taste of East Belfast and Van Morrison playing Star of The County Down with the Chieftains, including the enigmatic late Derek Bell on piano.

For all my friends in Norwich – The Saw Doctors. Turn it up loud and pogo. Can there be a better way to end a Party? Apologies to the great bard, Robbie Burns, but Auld Lang Sang isn’t half as much fun.


Eddie Jones, prepare to have your arse kicked

You have embarrassed my Australian and English cousins but come Saturday evening, when we have won the Six Nations, the Triple Crown and a Grand Slam, …….. we will forgive you.



World Thinking Day

World Thinking Day is celebrated annually on 22 February by all those in Girl Guiding. It is a day when they think about Girl Guides and Girl Scouts throughout the world, the meaning of Guiding, and its global impact.

My daughter, Louise Kendal-Riches, has been a member of Guiding since 1987. She later went on to become a leader in Manchester, Calgary in Canada and Christchurch in New Zealand. Louise also led a multi-national team to train Guide Leaders in Thailand.

How did Louise end up in New Zealand?   An earthquake occurred in Christchurch on 22 February 2011, World Thinking Day. It caused widespread damage across Christchurch and killed 185 people. Louise is a Civil Engineer and has been working on the rebuilding of Christchurch since then.

For Louise 22 February is a day to both celebrate Girl Guiding and also commemorate those who lost their lives in the Christchurch Earthquake.


In 2013 Girl Guiding New Zealand challenged girls to come up with suggestions on how to recruit Guide leaders. Louise’s girls came up with an idea to organise a flash mob. Their idea was selected and turned into a 30 second advert which was broadcast nationally on New Zealand Television. The two minute video below tells the story of what they did.

One & Other was a 2009 public art project by Antony Gormley in which 2,400 members of the public occupied the usually vacant fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square, for an hour each for 100 days. Of the 35,000 applicants, Louise won a place. She choose to promote Girl Guiding. See an extract of her time on the plinth at the link below.

Louise on Plinth




Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916

To day I will think about members of my family particularly:

Thomas Swindells (1898 – 1916) who died on the first day of the Somme

George Paysden (1895 – 1916) survived the Somme but later died at Bailleul

Also thinking about my cousin John Beck (1956 -1979) KIA.

I will honour and remember them

The Battle of the Somme was a battle of the First World War fought by  the British and French armies against the Germans. It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916.

It is estimated that there were 57,470 British casualtise on the first day of the Somme. Of these, 19,240 men died. The French had 1,590 casualties and the German 2nd Army lost 10,000–12,000 men. Few British troops reached the German front line.

The British troops on the Somme included Pals battalions, recruited from the same places or were of similar occupations. Over 2,000 of those killed on the first day were from the Ulster Division. In total 50,000 Irishmen were killed while serving in the British, Commonwealth or US armies in World War One.

Battle of Jutland 1916 – 2016

Battle of Jutland Map

Battle of Jutland Map

Today is a special and emotional day for my family and the City of Belfast. My Grandfather, Jonathan Kendal who served as a gunner on HMS Tiger, survived the 1916 Battle of Jutland.  The Tiger took several hits. Unfortunately 8,648 sailors from the British and German fleets died. 358 of those who died were Irish.


HMS Caroline

HMS Caroline, the second-oldest ship in Royal Navy service and the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland has been docked in Belfast for many, many years. I have gazed on her and watched her decay. However, today (1 June) and following major restoration works costing £14.2 million she will be open to the public at Belfast‘s Titanic Quarter. The restoration work looks very impressive and I look forward to visiting her again.