The Life and Times of Eamon Fitzpatrick

Submitted into Contest #92 in response to: End your story with a truth coming to light.... view prompt


Historical Fiction

Narrator-Fianna Jane Fitzpatrick

Her Dad-Finlay Eamon Fitzpatrick

Grandad-Callum Rory Fitzpatrick

Great-Grandad-Eamon Darragh Fitzpatrick m Eleanor Jane Sorenson- their child-Finlay Sorenson Fitzpatrick

Great-Great-Grandad-Rory Eamon Fitzpatrick

Merrill Aled Carter m Matilda Jean Carter nee McKenzie-their children, Alistair, Noah, Aled, Aisla, Elijah, Sebastian, Liam, Tristan, Jonathan and James.

Eamon Darragh Fitzpatrick m Matilda Jean Carter-their children, Caleb, Jeremy, Callum and Diana-Maree

Eamon Darragh Fitzpatrick m Rowen Iris Eastman-their children-Gala, Alwyn, Kaden and Israel


We were in the back garden, grandad Callum Fitzpatrick and I, washing the bird poo off the bench seat.

“Hey, Grandad, what was your dad like? What was his name?”

“We don’t talk about him, Fi. He was a rogue,” my grandfather responded.

Well, that was dismissive, I thought.

Had I been younger I might’ve dismissed it too, but I was fifteen and grandad’s words piqued my curiosity.

However, life intervened and it would be another thirty-five years before I would sign up to to discover the stories that vital records would reveal. I didn’t imagine how extraordinary they’d be.

Before my Dad, Finlay Fitzpatrick died, an uncle gave him some photos. Father scribbled names and approximate dates on many of them. He then passed away at just sixty-two. It was mesothelioma, a testament to his years in asbestos mining.

I worked my own hours as a writer, so the task of cleaning out Dad’s house fell to me. I found the photos in a bureau drawer and put them in my car to look at them in the quiet of my home.

I could tell by the varying sizes of the photos that they had been taken on different cameras. The writing on the back of a Box Brownie print said Eamon Darragh Fitzpatrick, age 30.

Wow, Dad’s grandfather, my great-grandfather, Grandad’s father, I thought. 

He didn’t look at all like a rogue. I would have expected a rogue to look surly or devilish with a dishevelled appearance. But no, this man was handsome and well dressed.

I gleaned from my research that great-grandfather Eamon Darragh Fitzpatrick married Eleanor Jean Sorenson in 1900 and they settled together in Feilding in New Zealand’s Manawatu.

Ancestry vital records, including photographs uploaded by other researchers, revealed that great-great-grandfather Rory Eamon Fitzpatrick welcomed his son Eamon as a partner carpenter in Fitzpatrick & Son Builders.

New Zealand was experiencing a building boom, particularly for expensive homes designed by architects such as Charles Nutusch. Competent craftsmen had the opportunity to prosper building beautiful timber designs such as Nutusch’s for the high-end market.

There was a photo in the box of Nutusch design with the words ‘Awakino Homestead, Dad built this, 1906’ written in a beautiful cursive script on the back. There was a photo of Eamon and Eleanor on their wedding day in 1900 and another of a lumber yard with Fitzpatrick and Son above the expansive iron gates.

Eamon and Eleanor had made their home in a pretty Kauri cottage on the outskirts of Feilding and eagerly awaited the birth of their first child.

When that day came, the outcome surely could not have been more tragic. Eleanor did not survive the birth. However, baby Finlay Sorenson Fitzpatrick clung to life.

Weeks went by and finally, Rory Fitzpatrick spoke to his son.

“C’mon Eamon, lad, rattle your dags, we’ve work to do."

“I’m not up to it today, Dad. Perhaps, tomorrow,” was the young man’s reply.

“He’s well down in the dumps, our Eamon,” Rory said to his wife.

Of course, my research didn’t tell me what my ancestors said to each other, but a hint on Eamon’s Ancestry page led me to a newspaper article that told me Finlay Sorenson Fitzpatrick died at age four months.

“Oh, my goodness, that poor wee baby,” I voiced out loud.

The article revealed he’d been ill for several days. I wondered if there was a failure to thrive. His mother had died. How was he being sustained?

There was nothing more on Finlay, so I continued to research his father.

Eamon Darragh moved to Taranaki and found work on a farm. The district was rich in green paddocks that fed Friesian and Jersey dairy cows. It was here Eamon met Matilda Jane Carter who’d been married to a man named Merrill. He had recently passed away at age 42, leaving her with ten children, the youngest only two months old.

Matilda Jane and her brood, Alistair, Noah, Aisla, Aled, Elijah, Sebastian, Liam, Tristan, Jonathan, and James, lived in a large farmhouse on Tawhiti Road outside Hawera. With nine boys and a single girl, it was a noisy home filled with fun and laughter, until the sudden and unexpected death of their beloved Papa, Merrill Aled Carter, (known as Mac.)

Matilda kept going. She made sure she was busy every day. That way she wouldn’t think of the loss of her husband.

“Where’s your lass tonight, Matilda?” a woman asked as they organised supper at the weekly barn dance.

“She’s with the little ones. I expect she’ll be here in due course if she can get Tristan into the push-chair and tie him down quick enough.”

Aisla Carter was a younger version of her pretty mother. She arrived at the dance later with Tristan and Jonathan in a double pushchair and baby James in a sling on her back. Local ladies delighted in relieving her of her responsibilities long enough for her to enjoy a couple of two-steps with local lads before Tristan became bothersome. The handsome Aiden Hannah escorted her home to put Tristan and the little ones to bed.

Matilda had married at sixteen. She’d been pregnant for the best part of the last sixteen years. But she was still beautiful.

Eamon Fitzpatrick noticed her, busy in the kitchen. He looked around the room and there were none who could match her, so he asked her to dance.

“As long as you stay back and help me wash up,” she said.

By the evening’s end, with the dishes washed, dried. and put away, Matilda Carter had accepted the courtship of Eamon Fitzpatrick. Within the year they were wed and some of Matilda’s children added Fitzpatrick to the Carter they already possessed, so admiring of their new stepfather were they. Eamon taught Alistair, Noah and Aled carpentry and they all took jobs locally.

Despite abundant chores at home, all the children except Tristan coped well in school. Tristan was different. He understood what was being said to him, though he was slower than other children to process instructions. But he was easily startled, a finicky eater, and rigid in his behaviour. If life did not adhere to his specific routine, he became wildly anxious until he was running around the room screaming and hitting his head with his hands. He didn’t survive a week in school. Matilda had to keep him home until he became unmanageable, and the doctor told her she needed to consign him to an asylum. It broke her heart, but she just couldn’t manage him anymore.

The older boys gave her a sense of pride, and she considered herself fortunate that she’d met Eamon. He’d been such a good influence on them. It upset Eamon terribly that he couldn’t help Tristan or enjoy the boy’s company as much as he loved to be with the other children. It devastated him when Tristan was taken away.

Matilda and Eamon soon had two children of their own, Caleb and Jeremy. And then another, Callum. By the time those three were running around terrorising the chooks and swinging on the washing on the clothesline, the older boys and Aisla had volunteered to join 500,000 other young New Zealanders to fight for king and country in Europe. Doubtless, there were other families saying goodbye to multiple children. But that made the situation no less difficult for Matilda.

Meanwhile, Eamon had accepted a large and lucrative building contract in Northland at the opposite end of the country.

“I’ll make sure you have money in the account every week, Matilda,” he said. And he did. But he was gone for such a long time. Matilda was despairing that he’d ever return.

Then Tristan died. He’d tried to escape the asylum and impaled himself on the iron railings of the perimeter fence.

“Come home, Eamon. I need you,” Matilda pleaded in a letter.

Matilda didn’t know Eamon had met another beautiful woman. Rowan Iris Eastman had already given birth to two of Eamon’s offspring and was pregnant with a third.

“It’s my stepson, Rowan. He’s passed away. I have to go back to make sure his mother and siblings are all right,” he said to his new wife.

It was uncommonly good seeing Matilda again, and Eamon’s heart broke for her having to endure such a tragic loss of one of her sons. He hoped the lads and Aisla would survive that cursed war. Matilda didn’t deserve any more pain. She was such a good woman and a beautiful mother. Genuine love for her swelled in his heart and he took her tenderly in his arms.

By the time he boarded the bus to resume work in Northland, Matilda Fitzpatrick was pregnant again.

Eamon continued to keep in touch with Matilda by post. She named her daughter Diana-Maree.

Now Rowan was pregnant again.

Back in Taranaki, Aisla and her brothers had all returned from the war, though the men weren’t psychologically the same as the lads who left. Alistair was withdrawn, had sustained two bullet wounds, and experienced unbearable nightmares. Noah laughed rarely, talked seldom, and worked relentlessly. If work was quiet, he’d take to the road to look for some. Aled married a lass from Masterton way, but he didn’t cope with the responsibilities of marriage or the unpredictability of days without work. He’d lost confidence in his skills. His wife’s parents sent him packing and took their daughter back home with them.

Aisla was the only one who was able to compartmentalise the horrors of war in her mind. She’d seen things as a frontline nurse that had broken her heart. But caring for Tristan so much as a young lass had been beneficial to her resilience.

As the years progressed Aisla couldn’t understand her father’s absence.

“I’ll take the coach to Northland and persuade him to return,” she told her mother.

Rowan Fitzpatrick was happy with her loving husband. He was a wonderful father to Gala, Alwyn, and Kaden. And now they welcomed baby Israel.

But all was not well with Eamon. The Great Depression had caused a significant slump in the building industry. Eamon was out of work. He felt worthless and angry, hopeless, and confused.

“What a mess I’ve made of things,” he said to Rowan.

“We’ll manage dear,” she said. “Don’t be despondent. We’re self-sustaining and we’ll swap our excess produce with neighbours for what they have that’s over and above their needs.”

But Eamon couldn’t shake his mood. Little Israel’s crying further distressed him. He couldn’t cope with not working, and now Matilda had written to say she needed money for a medical procedure.

And what was this, this last paragraph? Aisla is coming here? To take me home?

“Oh my God, what have I done? I love both of these women. I love all these children. What the hell am I going to do?”

Eamon Fitzpatrick sat on a chair in the washhouse with a kitchen knife in his hand. He saw no other way. He plunged the knife into his chest. He bled profusely and died quickly.

Fianna sat in shock as she read the newspaper articles on PapersPast. It seems that every major paper in New Zealand covered the story of the depressed father of four who killed himself because he was out of work.

“Oh, my goodness, that sheds light on the situation,” Fianna voiced out loud.

Grandfather felt let down by his father. That’s why he called him a rogue. But he wasn’t a rogue. He was a loving, lonely man who made some foolish, imprudent choices. Perhaps that early trauma, the loss of his first wife and baby, had unsettled him forever.

Gosh, and little did the paper’s reporters know the whole truth.

Fianna sat for the while, deeply saddened, profoundly affected by the tragedy of her family's situation. Then she made a cup of tea and sat some more. Her heart ached for the pain her ancestors had endured. But at least now she understood.

May 07, 2021 14:34

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21:52 Jun 16, 2021

Thank you to Dako Bear, Sasini Alhapaththu, Clinton Ernest Murphy, Luis Medina and Melissa Hassan for liking this story. I wrote it in a heck of a hurry just before the due date and when I read it this morning for the first time since then, I noticed errors and unnecessary sentences and cleaned the piece up a bit. Have a great day everyone and I hope you get some writing done. Best wishes, Rhonda


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12:59 May 12, 2021

Thank you to Clinton Ernest Murphy for following me and to Corey Melin, Anna Elizabeth, Lynn Penny, Kanika G and Maya Emerson for liking this story. It gives me much pleasure that you like it. Rhonda


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