My adopted city
celtic design
celtic design
clan blazon of arms
clan coat of arms and motto
celtic design
celtic design

Motto: Esto Sol Testis

How can you sit down and write a thousand pages about your family? Who's going to read it anyway? That'll take you ages!" exclaimed my friend, Robert.

No, I don't expect family members to brim with enthusiasm for it as it presumes an interest in both antiquity and history. My grandchildren and their children's children I assured him would be very grateful one day that I had taken the time to put such a record together. It's a regular occurrence to hear many Australians remark that their grandparents or one or both of their parents came from Ireland, but not all of them are able to name the county or townland that they came from let alone the year or decade of their arrival here. You can see in many of them that longing to be in touch with their roots. It might not seem important, but the question of our identity I believe is a very important one, and the more we know about it the more secure and complete we feel in ourselves.

No, I won't be writing so many pages, and this Robert was glad to hear. He rightly remarked that something of epic proportions, as I had jokingly suggested, would surely condemn not only the more apathetic but also many of the more interested to everlasting ignorance of their roots. But he was amused by my story about a past student of mine whose moods always took a turn for the worse, and who wanted all to know that he shunned success. Every Friday afternoon, my year eleven class would rush to complete their work so that we had at least thirty minutes for our regular weekly quiz competition. The local television quiz, "Sale of a Century", was very popular among the students. It was my task, as quiz master, to prepare a set of ten questions for each Friday afternoon worth in all one hundred points. The leader in points at the end of the semester was declared the winner and would receive a special certificate and a small present. This particular Friday afternoon I began with a question that required them to explain the difference between ignorance and apathy. When they had finished writing their answers, I invited Ray to read out his answer. The perfunctory, "I don't know and I don't care!" response brought the usual gush of laughter and seemingly inappropriate comments from the class.

"Excellent, Ray! The first ten marks of the afternoon are deservedly yours for such a succinct and dramatised response. Well done!"

The brighter ones who had savoured the moment could be seen to explain it to the more perplexed in the midst of Ray's disappointment.

Well I don't expect any member of the Coleman clan to allow himself to be so outwitted. ‘Not knowing and not caring' is nowhere in our creed. And that is one of the reasons that I feel compelled to tell our story.

Our Family Tree has been growing for hundreds of years long before any attempts were made to conquer its island. Its branches are so numerous and expansive that to attempt to trace them now would involve travelling the highways and byways of the great continents of the world. As my father was heard to say on that special occasion, "The Coleman Clan is a rare breed. To join it is to feel the warmth of heaven upon you!" That same warmth he assured me has been felt by many down the centuries, and in many different places. It wasn't so much what was said then as how it was said that captivated me, as I tried in my youth to grasp the significance of those proudly reassuring words.

I am Martin Coleman and the year is 2003. I have taken it upon myself to write briefly about the Coleman Clan, and to piece together by way of document and anecdote its own unique story. Often as I sat in class in primary school, the mention of places such as America, Canada, England and Australia evoked all sorts of feelings, ones that many of us had in common as our uncles and aunts, our cousins and in some cases sisters and brothers as well as close friends had gone to settle in those far off lands that to us were worlds away, so strange and out of reach. My father's voice always dropped an octave, or so it seemed, whenever he spoke about his brothers in Montreal and in England. As I looked at their photographs or pictures as they were called on the parlour wall, I would wonder how they were faring and if we would ever meet. On my mother's side, the story was the same but it had unfortunately and very sadly a finality to it. The photos on the wall told in part the family story of that time. You can imagine my disappointment when I returned home in 1974 to find that all the photographs had vanished from the parlour walls and sideboards. No one seemed to be aware of it or could say what had happened to them. In my visits since then to cousins in Birr, Co Offaly, and in Montreal, Canada, I have been able, I am happy to say, to procure copies of copies of a few of them. How I would love to see once more the photograph of that dashing young soldier, my father, in the uniform of Michael Collin's Free State Army, or the one in which he appears with his brothers, Jim and John, and a friend.

Unfortunately, the practice of piecing together a family album did not exist when I was a child. In fact it must have died out shortly before my parents were married, as there are no photographs of their wedding, which I believe was a very big and happy occasion celebrated with more than its share of the traditional ceremonies and customary festivities, including many bonfires along the way. There are no childhood photographs of my brothers, sisters or me. It was not until I bought a box camera in 1953 when I was a third year student at the Sacred Heart College in Carrignavar, County Cork, that I was able to begin, if only modestly, our family album.

Today, I am surrounded by thousands of photographs, slides and videos, but the circle was incomplete until September 1997, when Patricia and I had the great pleasure of visiting the Colemans in Montreal, my uncle Jim's many descendants. It was a wonderful and rare experience meeting my aunt-in-law, Maud, and all her children and most of her grandchildren. Maud's daughter, Martha, organised for copies of family photographs to be sent to me. Among them, I'm delighted to say, were copies of two photographs that were the same as those that one time hung on our parlour wall. My circle of friends was not completed, however, until my cousin, Michael Joe Swift from Coventry, directed me to the descendants of my other paternal uncle, John. The opportunity to meet John in 1974 came and went and it is to my everlasting regret that we never met. Hopefully, I will be able to meet members of his family in the not too distant future, perhaps at the Coleman Clan reunion in Ireland sometime in the near future.*

* That 'sometime' has come and gone. A Coleman Clan Reunion took place in Ireland during the weekend 6 to 8 August 2004. It was organised by me from Sydney and was well supported by Clan members from Montreal, Rugby, Coventry and Sydney as well as from different parts of Ireland.

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