The man who never made it

Monday 1 August 2016 — out in my own backyard — What Will Be Your Legacy Month begins

Years ago, my late Aunt Jeanne Goldrick told me that, while attending a meeting in Australia, she had been told by a woman (also named Goldrick) that the family descends from a medieval Crusader knight. Right.

It’s not that I doubted my aunt, you understand, it’s just that she was known to be a teller of tall tales. She had what they call a “creative imagination.” In fact, storytelling was her profession. 

Aunt Jeanne wrote for the London-based publishing company Harlequin Romances, under the nom de plume “Emma” — which I later learned was not a pen name at all but actually her given name. My Aunt Jeanne was Emma Jeanne Goldrick. My dear aunt wrote nearly 50 mildly naughty novels for women. I have never read any of them, but I suspect that the raciest thing about them is the cover, which was designed to sell books to mature women.

Once I was making hospital rounds, visiting my parishioners. I knocked lightly on one door and entered the room of a matronly patient. She saw me coming and quickly slipped a book she was reading under the bedcovers. Too late. I had taken a course in speed reading.  I read the book cover in a flash. She was stashing a paperback copy of “If Love be Blind,” written by my aunt. I said nothing, pretending not to notice.  I could have asked if she wanted the book signed by the author, but that would have been awkward. 

Sitting on the back porch one recent morning, I recalled my aunt’s story and decided to get to the bottom of it. It was something to do on a quiet summer’s day in Falmouth.

I researched the subject on the Internet.  As it turns out, the story of my crusading ancestor is true after all. When has anything untrue ever been posted on the Internet?  If not true, then at least it has a certain degree of truthiness about it (note to reader: “truthiness” is a word found in the Oxford Dictionary and popularized in 2005 by the comedian Stephen Colbert to describe something that might seem true in an emotional way, but isn’t necessarily so.

“Goldrick” is a translation of the Irish personal name Ualghairg. Ualghairg, the Crusader in question, belonged to the O’Rourke Clan. O’Rairc in Irish is based on the Viking personal name Hrotherkr. 

My ancestor was Ualghairg of the House of Hrotherkr the Viking (translation: Goldrick O’Rourke). The son of Goldrick O’Rourke was McGoldrick O’Rourke (a name which happens to mean son of Ualghairg of the House of Hrotherkr the Viking). The multi-layered names became unwieldy and were simplified to “McGoldrick,” eventually becoming a surname. The “Mc” was dropped in some branches of the family, including mine. So that’s what’s in a name.

In my family, the history goes like this: James McGoldrick, blacksmith, emigrated to Roxbury, Mass. from County Roscommon, Ireland. His granddaughter told me he dropped the “Mc” from his name because of widespread anti-Irish sentiment at the time. 

Sir Knight Goldrick, founder of the family, was only a child when Jerusalem was captured by the Crusaders, but he did come of age later during the First Crusade. At the time of his church and military service, Goldrick was already a man of some local stature. He was the Lord of Breffney. This was a confederation of related Celtic tribes that lived in what is today Counties Leitrim, Roscommon, Cavan, and Sligo. The McGoldrick/Goldrick surname is still to be found in northwest Ireland. The ruins of the family castles can still be seen.

My ancestor never made it to Jerusalem. Nor did he die in some epic battle. He died on the way, probably from drinking contaminated water. At least, that’s the oral history — which, as is the case with all history, is told by people who weren’t there.

I did this genealogical research because of a phone call I had received from the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. The Knights and Ladies (Dames) were planning to attend the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass here at St. Patrick Church. 

I knew next to nothing about the Order of the Holy Sepulcher. I looked that up too. Guess what? They trace their origins back to the First Crusade. The Order specifically undertook the defense of the Holy Sepulcher. 

Since 1847 the Order has been under the direct protection of the Holy See. In 1996 Pope St. John Paul II defined the Order as a canonical Association of the Faithful, assigned to assist the Patriarch of Jerusalem. The particular Knights who were here for Mass are involved in the education of children in the Holy Land. 

Although I’m a Knight of Columbus (who was himself a member of the Order of the Cross of Christ), I felt some affinity with the Order of the Holy Sepulcher. 

I am, after all, directly descended from the crusader who never made it to Jerusalem. 

Or so the story goes.

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.


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