The Name that Binds – Sarah’s Family

Mar 29th, 2014 | By | Category: Joyce Biographies

“The Name that Binds” – we should all give our back stories here. Here is mine. I am a Joyce by birth and so I remain. I have two Joyce brothers. My father was Gerald William Charles Joyce, a tall man of strong character and great charm. His shock of dark, curly hair was a trademark. He was trained as a Fleet Air arm pilot, but left England in the late 50’s. He and my mother struck out for Canada. For many years he ran a hospital in western Canada where I now live. He once noted that he had always lived near the sea – and it is true…the sea is a life force to my family.

My father’s father was William George Joyce, born as one of many children to Thomas (and Annie) Joyce of Portsmouth. Annie disappeared (or died) when my grandfather was a boy. It was not a subject to be discussed. A number of siblings died of the cholera that swept through Portsmouth at the turn of the century. Probably not able to afford separate cemetery plots, his brothers and sisters are buried one on top of another, including a pair of tiny, twin girls. Two other brothers were killed in WWI, one in a famous war ship disaster.

William’s father, my great-grandfather Thomas kept pigeons. This was during WW1. I often wonder if these were the famous ‘War pigeons’, used for sending and receiving messages. I would love to know the details. Other than these few, bare facts, my g.grandfather Thomas is an unknown to me. I have a blurry photo of him. He seems to smile into the camera. I know he walked long distances. He died of cancer; the family curse.

His son, my grandfather William pulled himself up from the depths of poverty. With their mother gone, the children were cared for first by their elder sister, then by a family friend who became like a mother. William rose from being a Gunnery sergeant to a Major General in WWII.

William, my father & grandmother, lived in India in the late 1920’s-early 30’s. As a young man in the military, he was a sometime gaoler of Mahatma Gandhi (of interest, but certainly not a source of pride). During these early encounters my Grandfather gained great respect for Gandhi and would often play chess with him.. He later spoke of him with reverence. My own father later back-packed through India with my Mother.

At the end of his life William moved to Yorkshire and developed a market garden. My father was devoted to him, and often recalled his wit, intelligence and sparkling blue eyes. These traits my brothers have inherited.

Any further back in time my Joyce tree grows dim. Only a small shred of story that was handed down to me from my Father. It was this: that we were once Irish …from Joyce Country. We kept stables and race horses, and we trained a winner of the Irish Derby. When or how the first Joyce boy made his way to Portsmouth I do not know. And so one twig of the family tree has made its way all the way from Ireland, to Portsmouth and then across the ocean to the far west coast of Canada. When I now recognize a thread of my familiar Joyce story…it is with shock and amazement!

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