.

Robert Jack Eardley was, for many years, Chief Psychiatrist for the U.S. Justice Department. In 2000, he organised a family gathering of thousands with our surname, in the small English town where the name originated. People came from as far away as China and New Zealand.

Our home has seen much better days than these,
This City born of Brimstone, Fire and Clay.
Now tainted by sad dereliction’s sleaze,
Of boarded up desertion and decay.

But on one fine and sunny summer’s day,
The welcome mat was rolled across the ground.
This big-shot from the mighty USA,
Was here to grace our English working town.

Where pottery folk departed long ago,
In search of better lives across the sea.
They settled down in rural Ohio,
East Liverpool, the place that set them free.

Where Robert Jack had chased his DNA,
Left dangling on his distant family tree.
The secrets he discovered on the way,
The circuitry connecting him to me.

For years we’d got his letters sent to thank,
We kinfolk with the self-same name as him.
My Dad said, “You can never trust a yank
If I were you, I’d put them in the bin.”

But on this sunny day, we coalesced,
We thousands gathered by the Churchyard wall.
A family celebration of the best,
And Robert Jack had organised it all.

We dug deep in our pockets to afford,
The hefty price of coloured glass and lead.
The window in the Church was thus restored,
Our family crest now shining overhead.

And so, he flew away for to resume,
His noble and illustrious career.
We kin-folk of the fifties baby-boom,
Would bless the happy quest that brought him here.

The day he passed away, I shed a tear,
Remembering the time he chose to spend.
Amongst his happy family gathered here,
Of Robert Jack, my relative and friend.

.

.

Jeff Eardley lives in the heart of England near to the Peak District National Park and is a local musician playing guitar, mandolin and piano steeped in the music of America, including the likes of Ry Cooder, Paul Simon, and particularly Hank Williams.


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18 Responses

  1. Peter Hartley

    An incredibly heart-warming story, this, and brilliantly well told; and it provides the best reason possible for not being surnamed Smith. Genealogy is a fascinating subject altogether, but to be able to assemble so many folk in one place on the face of the earth with the same DNA and from so far afieldmust have been a unique experience for everyone involved. And what a fitting tribute to Robert Jack to have his, and the family crest of all the Eardlys, restored in stained glass in the family church! Not to mention this wonderful poem in tribute to John Jack and forever in his memory.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Peter, we are blessed with “ley” in our surnames which conjures up images of contented agrarian serfdom. Robert Jack was responsible for the raising of around £30,000 for the window restoration at St James church in the Staffs mining town of Audley. The excellent photo from Evan features a hero of the Cheshire town of Congleton. Thanks again for your kind remarks.

      Reply
      • Peter Hartley

        Jeff – Yes, my surname in full means clearing (among trees) for harts, and has the same meaning as Hindly, Buckley or Rowly. It is a very common surname in south Lancs and west Yorks. Thank you ginormously for your very kind review of my little book, by the way, which I only found yesterday.

  2. jd

    So interesting! Enjoyed reading. It must have
    been a wonderful interlude in your life. You are
    blessed by your history and the knowing of it.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      jd, thank you for your kind words. It was a great day and it was a privilege to meet, and shake the hand of such a kind and gentle American.

      Reply
  3. Joe Tessitore

    I’m with Peter – heart-warming indeed!
    This is as lovely as it gets.
    Thank you, Jeff, for sharing it with us.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Thank you Joe. He was one of your country’s true gentlemen and he did so much for us all over here.

      Reply
  4. Brian Yapko

    Jeff, this is a truly heart-warming poem and story. Robert Jack sounds like quite a man. The project he took on sounds quite daunting. It must be very gratifying to know that you have so many widespread family connections. This poem has made my morning better. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Brian, Robert Jack was quite a guy and it was humbling to meet him and shake him by the hand, just as my wife remarked, “He looks a bit like you!” He left behind an army of new genealogists and a huge, restored church window. Thank you for your kind words and for my own mornings enlightened by your wonderful poetry.

      Reply
  5. Sally Cook

    Dear Jeff –
    I loved your genealogical poem ! Thought I was the only one who wrote these, but guess not. I have a nice on on the site of the 800th anniversary of the founding of Liverpool by that scoundrel King John. However I can’t print it here as they claim they own copyright to some 800 poems, mine included. The plot? King John locks up an ancestress of mine and throwws the key away. Her crime? SHE TALKED TOO MUCH !
    English humor, I guess.
    I hear bones rattling; better shut up and skedaddle.

    Reply
  6. Jeff Eardley

    Sally, what a wonderful tale of your forbear. “Ladies who talk too much” are mentioned in many English ale-houses. We have one called, “The Quiet Woman” with the sign depicting a well-dressed lady….minus her head. The connection with Liverpool and King John is fascinating. Your ancestor may be the DNA that started the delightful sense of humour of this great city that culminated in The Beatles, and best of all, the great Peter Hartley. I myself will now “skedaddle’ (great word.) Hope the rattling bones don’t keep you awake.

    Reply
  7. Paul Freeman

    Originally the name was ‘Beardley’, but the ‘b’ got shaved off.

    But seriously – what a great story, Jeff.

    Thanks for the read.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Ha Ha Paul very funny! At school, I was told, “The Eardley bird catches the worm.” Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Reply
  8. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Jeff, I adore this poem. I used to be a genealogist – one of those boring folk who trawl through microfiche and heavy hand-written records to reveal the thickness of our blood. I worked at Somerset House and the Angel, Islington to unveil the wonders of family connections… but, it isn’t until reading a poem such as yours that I ponder the magnificence of my duties. When one sees the connections come to life through tangible beauty – the family becomes a force that can conquer all fears of not belonging. Jeff, your poem is a triumph and I’m reveling in its impact. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Susan, the one thing I learned from Robert Jack was that no matter what your humble beginning, (like wot mine woz,) we should always take pride in our surnames which take us on a fascinating journey through the centuries, warts and all. I even discovered my great-grandmother who was drowned after falling from a narrow boat. What an interesting job you had and you must have re-connected so many. Thank you for your kind comment which has certainly made my day. I don’t know if you remember the great singer/songwriter Jake Thackeray. His song “Up my family tree” is a hilarious take on genealogy and is worth a listen, followed by a chuckle.
      Best wishes to you both and hope the dark-chocolate taste buds have returned. (Mine’s a Lindt)

      Reply
  9. David Watt

    Jeff, this a really interesting true story, and stylishly described with a fluency afforded by firsthand experience. Thanks for the entertaining read.

    Reply

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