Pop’s Five-shooter

In October 2006 I made use of a two-month amnesty on illegally-held firearms to hand in to the guards my grandfather’s Iver Johnson revolver. My aunt Phyllis had asked me to get rid of it for her; it was in her safe along with her collections of mint crowns and half-crowns, and various bits of family silver including Pop’s ‘Captain’s Cup’ from the Killiney Golf Club.

Phyllis and my father had thought of it as Pop’s service revolver, which he had kept after serving in the 1914-18 war, but it must have been one he bought privately; Iver Johnsons were never British Army issue. It was made in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in 1917, at which time it would have sold for about eight dollars. I doubt whether he could have got away with retaining army property. Ernest Robinson had had a pleasant enough war, I gather, serving as a quartermaster in England and rising to the rank of Captain.

He had left Ireland at sixteen to fight in the Boer War, when his father’s coal importing business had gone bankrupt. The old man had had a cycling accident in Blackrock, and while he was in hospital his creditors demanded payment of their outstanding bills, evidently fearing he might die. He paid 12/6 in the pound, that is 62.5%, a figure my Dad always said was far from bankruptcy, at least by late-20th century standards. Any trader who could raise that much on short notice was doing well. In the 1890s the shame of that event was painful, and the three sons of W W Robinson all left for South Africa. My grandfather was the only one who came back; the elder two lost contact with the family and with each other.

Dad told me that during the Troubles in the 1920s, when Phyllis and he were children, their father had given them strict instructions never to look out the window if they heard their gate squeak open at night. The implication was that someone on the run might be hiding in their garden. Pop had no sympathy for the IRA, but if possible even less for the Black and Tans. He later told the children that if either of those groups had knocked on his door, he would have shot first and asked questions later. They evidently believed him capable of it; both Phyllis and Dad had a lifelong horror of guns.

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8 Responses to “Pop’s Five-shooter”

  1. samwell Says:

    did the Troubles affect them? are there still relatives in south africa? i like this enry.

  2. samwell Says:

    that should say ‘entry’… rather than a cockney ‘henry’. i’m not turning into frank bruno!

  3. recumbentman Says:

    The brothers who went to South Africa had no children. In fact of all six siblings (James known as Hal, William known as Peter, Vera, Ida, Edith and Ernest) our grandpop was the only one to have children. He came home after the Boer War and married his childhood sweetheart Dollie Waterhouse in 1909. His sisters never married; Peter did, late in life, and we really don’t know about Hal except that he died with no family in S.A. The Boss went out to find Peter in Cape Town and tell him his brother had died in Johannesburg and left him some money. The whole story is in his Memoirs of a Peripatetic.

  4. samwell Says:

    a close call for the robinsons.

  5. midoro Says:

    Pop met Hal during the war in an hotel lift in London. “How are you young fellow?” said Hal. Then: “This is my floor”. And that was that. So far as we know they never met again.

  6. recumbentman Says:

    I remember that story, though I thought they had had a whiskey together before parting.

    I just checked ths in the Boss’s Memoirs and I see that I have been wrong above: according to the book, W W went bankrupt and Pop left to fight in the Boer war before his bicycle accident. Hal didn’t fight in the Boer war but went to South Africa later than Pop, to work as an engineer; and when the two met in a lift in the Savoy Hotel in 1916, they parted “not to meet again for twenty years” which suggests that they did meet around 1936, though I never heard about that.

    Janey Mac, we haven’t been studying our scriptures. It’s great that the book is there to consult. I have the odd marginal note added in my copy, such as “Phyllis doubts this” on p 15, referring to Gran walking into town from Killiney, to meet Ernest. According to Auntie P, girls never went anywhere unchaperoned in the eighteen-nineties. There are a few corrections to make, such as the name of Mary Noel’s husband Hugh Sweetman, called Frank on p. 113.

  7. midoro Says:

    I watched Pop make a meal of two tiny sardines from a tin. He filleted them and left the skeletons on the plate (I seem to remember that he also ate a slice of bread and drank a cup of tea. Nobody else got sardines that day — just bread and jam).
    I used to spend hours silently watching him make things from second-hand wood in his workshop (which later became the kitchen and front bedroom). He used broken pieces of window-pane as scrapers, and told me that, if cut, one should always ‘suck and spit’. His constructions were famously solid. Years later I was told that he approved of me — must have been the silence that had skipped a generation.
    Farvey was selectively deaf — he couldn’t hear his wife (but eye contact with me and a fleeting smile made it clear to me, even at three years old, what was going on).

  8. recumbentman Says:

    I must quiz you on the grandfathers; they both died before I was born. I haven’t even a picture of Farvey, I only remember the Boss saying you looked a bit like him. Must have had a distinguished air.

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