Saturday, 23 May 2009
Had a long chat with my brother in Australia, this evening. It really looks as if this story about our Dad being born in New York City was a red herring to throw the British Secret Services off the scent when he successfully applied for entry to MI6. Knowing that we are descended from Irish aristocracy, my brother's research turned up a certain Laval, Graf von Westmeath, a Field Marshall in the Austrian army in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Born in Ireland, he enrolled in the Austrian army at the age of 16, moving up to Colonel by the age of 27. His grandson, Laval Llewellyn Wilhelm, Graf von Westmeath, was born in Siena in 1870, popping his clogs in Vienna a year after the Second World War had started. This timeline makes him a possible grandfather candidate. Maybe our father was born in 'enemy territory', a fact better hushed up by anyone wishing to work as a spy. Vaguely mentioning origins in a still-neutral country must have been infinitely preferable to saying 'Actually, the reason I speak fluent German is because I was raised in Austria'. I also remember my mother telling me when I was very young that my father also spoke Serbo-Croat. Only today, forty years on, does this seem to make a little sense. There's a picture of the original Laval on his Wikipedia page and the family resemblance is, I feel, quite marked. He died in 1862. In Croatia. His eldest son shares a birthday with Fingernail 1, but only psychogenealogists might find that even remotely significant.