v 7.00.00
23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024

The Brogan cousins

Unfortunately my cousin Patrick Brogan just deceased after extended complications related to breaking his hips. He died 9 Sep 2018 in Washington, DC after going into a coma Saturday afternoon. He was with his wife Janet Satterthwaite, their son William and Pierre his son by his earlier marriage to Josette Brogan.

My first memory of my cousin Patrick is from back in 1948 when we were ten and shared lives in the Brogan family Georgian home of 5 Belvoir Terrace in Cambridge on Trumpington Road provided by Peterhouse College.

My grandmother on my mother's side, Edith Matthews, and I had just returned to England. My grandmother was a colonial returnee coming from a now independent India via Iraq and Baghdad where I was living with my parents. My grandmother accompanied me back to the UK so I could go to school in Cheltenham. Before going off to school, grandma Matthews took me to Cambridge where we lived "en famille" with the Brogan tribe.

The Brogans were scattered through 5 Belvoir Terrace with it three stories and basement and were comprised of my Aunt Olwen, whose study and lair was offset from the landing halfway up the stairs at the rear of the house. Here, she was immersed in her archeological studies of the Roman family graves associated with the once active Roman agricultural domain of Tripolitania in Libya; my uncle Denis Brogan, a professor at Peterhouse, was housed in his library and study on the second floor at the front of the house while my cousins Hugh, Patrick, Brian and Topsy and their nanny and companion Miss Hellaby were dispersed through the upper parts of the house.

Uncle Dennis' study overflowed with books, populating shelves and migrating, like the towers of Bolognia, to be scattered in apparent random piles higgledy-piggledy across the floor with slivers of paper peeping from the pages. Dennis knew where all his books were and their fly leaves annotated with page numbers referencing passages relevant to his work. Woe betide the little boy who toppled the books or maid who tidied them. Uncle Dennis was master of the angry flushed face and impressive voice guarding his books like a bull-terrier, so Patrick and I avoided his domain when he was in his den.

At the start of my visit that he had just returned from the USA enthusiastically loaded down with colorful eccentric and eclectic comic magazines featuring, among others, Superman and Spiderman which represented reading for children essentially unknown in England.

At meal times he used to regale us with the adventures of Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School, stories he made up each day. Bunter, a school boy character created by the author Frank Richards, was a reading favorite of small boys at that time. Probably inspired by Billy Bunter and a sense of adventure, Pat and I set a fire in a small cupboard under the stairs and despite the resulting billowing smoke and panic we generated, were only subject to heavy verbal chastisement for being so stupid.

In the basement Aunt Olwen had sequestered my step great-grandfather's original owner's replica of the paddle steamer RMS Connaught (launched 1860 and scrapped 1897) which was stored in a glass case. This ship dominated the seas between Kingstown-Holyhead and was the first ship to reach 18 knots, a record held for over 20 years. The ship was captained by Thomas George Kendall (1835–1906), Patrick's and my great-grandfather.

In the same shaded room was a dartboard which Patrick and I used to hone our meager skills at dartplaying. I don't know if Patrick can remember but once as we played Hugh interrupted and made discouraging remarks about a little boy's game with no skill. We laughed and suggested he watch me as I turned my back to the board and threw three darts over my shoulder into the board, hitting the bullseye every time. All of us were flabbergasted and Patrick and I fell about laughing proclaimed an outrageous supernatural skills to a disgusted Hugh.

Aunt Olwen organized expeditions for us all, when we canoed up the Cam River just behind 5 Belvoir Terrace, but she wisely avoided punts. We learned to paddle correctly and since all of us were fans of Arthur Ransom's Swallows and Amazons immersed ourselves in survival. I cannot dream how Olwen controlled us but she was a kind matter fact person we all respected.

The garden behind 5 Belvoir Terrace was also her domain and had been converted to an allotment for vegetables cared for by a local hired family gardener, Aunt Olwen and in a desultory way, by my cousins. I have vague memories that Pat was not over enthusiastic about his duties while Hugh was more focused on high maintenance. We ate the garden vegetables every day.

Patrick and found local adventure by climbed over the asbestos roof of the building at the end of the drive besides 5 Belvoir Terrace to the land behind which, during the War, had been requisitioned by the US Army and was now empty and smelled of dank abandonment. The military personal who had lived there had painted the walls with cartoon like figures. It was as if we had stepped into another world, and once we recovered from the fear of being discovered trespassing on private property congratulated ourselves on finding a new secret world beyond the confines of the civilized garden of 5 Belvoir Terrace.

I came to hang out with Patrick again in 1954 when, aged 16, I visited the Brogans after my father's death from a heart attack when he was travelling the desert road from Baghdad to Amman Jordan and he is now buried. In August of that year my Aunt Olwen organized a family holiday that she led. Our party consisted of Hugh, Patrick, Brian and Topsy. Our motley group took our bikes by train from Cambridge to a remote Railway Halt that may have been close to a prehistoric dyke my Aunt studied, way out in the Norfolk countryside. Here we mounted our bikes to ride leisurely across the flat Norfolk landscape along often meandering country lanes to a cottage just south of the seaside dunes of West Runton on the north coast of Norfolk.

The cottage was enclosed by trees and secluded. Daily we all set off to paddle on the beach and even swim in the sea and freeze as this was "de rigueur" for the English summer sea side visit along with the use of spades and building of sand castles.

This time was made memorable by the publication of JRR Tolkien's first book of "The Lord of the Rings" series, "The Fellowship of the Ring". Olwen had brought the book with her to West Runton, Hugh had grabbed first dibs, then Patrick, then I, then Brian and then Topsy. The book captured us all, and the Brogans were ecstatic to learn more of hobbits, having being launched in childhood with Tolkien's earlier book "The Hobbit". I quickly caught up, and have been an enthusiast for these tales ever since.

Patrick and I formed a friendship and bond nurtured by our family links and our early adventures in childhood. We both have fond memories of those times. Viva.