"This week sees the birthday of my youngest sister, Susan, and my younger brother, Patrick. Susan's birthday was yesterday and she is currently having a holiday in South Africa and my brother Patrick's birthday is today. In the photograph, Susan is the girl on the back row and Patrick is the one in a blue shirt on the front row.
As my mother would constantly remind me when I was growing up that all of my siblings are 'special', and as her firstborn, I was charged with never abandoning any of them in times of need.
Our experiences with all our siblings differ with each, having been born at different times and positioned differently in the hierarchical family structure. For example, the experience of the youngest sibling like Susan can never be like the eldest sibling, me. Similarly, being born the oldest of all siblings brings with it parental considerations, allowances and expectations that the second oldest brother like Patrick, who is seven years younger than me never benefited from.
When you are the oldest of seven children, one cannot experience the same quality of life as the youngest members receive. For example, being the oldest, I experienced my parents at their most loving to each other and can even recall as a seven-year-old when they would take a few of the older ones for a family walk across the fields on a Sunday afternoon, they might disappear behind some natural barrier for ten minutes while they instructed the rest of us to play and run about. My sister, Susan's experience of family life, however, must have been much different to that of mine. I was in Canada when she was a mere seven-year-old and I know that this was a period in my parent's relationship when arguments between them were frequent and far more volatile than I had been used to seeing during earlier years. Don't get me wrong, they always loved each other even though at times they didn't like each other!
As for my younger brother, Patrick, even though I never willed it to be, I suspect that his big brother was always the template of personal success that my parents always judged his performance by; and wrongly so in my view. It is hard for a growing boy to establish their own identity within the neighbourhood when they are invariably introduced as, 'Patrick, the brother of Billy Forde'. I was constantly in fights in my late teens and even after I had first married at the age of 26 years, my brothers Patrick and Michael would often be dragged into fights and forced to defend themselves and the family name after some local bully or ruffian I'd previously had dealings with discovered that they were the younger brothers of 'Billy Forde'.
Let me say that I am immensely proud of my sister Susan and my brother, Patrick. Both have been extremely successful in their chosen careers (Susan, an Area Manager in the Social Services Dept and Patrick, a textile shop steward for numerous years before he took early retirement). Each, like every other Forde my parents gave birth to, is fiercely independent individuals who brook no nonsense from whatever quarter it comes and press onwards against whatever level of opposition presents itself, without fear or favour. My brother Patrick fought vigorously for the rights of textile workers all his working life and my sister Susan is the only woman I know who took out sexual discrimination grievance against one of her Polytechnical Lecturers when she was training to be a social worker. I suppose that like all the Forde brothers and sisters, once they get their heels dug in they take no prisoners!
To our Susan and Patrick, your oldest brother, Billy, wishes you both a very happy birthday. I am ever grateful for your expressed love and concern for me during my period of ill health over the past five years. I love you both. Your oldest brother, Billy (the undisputed head and the Godfather of the Forde Family!) I have included for you both below in celebration of your birthdays, an Irish song I know you will both like," William Forde: April 12th, 2018.