Childhood memories

According to my mother, who was Scottish (never mind the fact that her family had left Scotland in about 1660, and had spent 40 years in Ireland, and 100 in the United States on the way to Australia, and that she was second generation Australian) the Riordans were "bog Irish". As a matter of family honour my father was obliged to have a profession. His father had been a police magistrate in various country towns in New South Wales, and he had wanted to study law, but the family was poor because his father suffered poor health (which my Uncle Dick suggested may not have been unconnected with a fondness for the bottle), and he had been forced to go to the Royal Military College at Duntroon, because that was the only place where he could get paid while acquiring a professional qualification.

All his sympathies were with the Irish, but at Duntroon he was brainwashed (and almost certainly bashed) into believing that you could never get anywhere unless you were an "English Gentleman", and as a result he suffered an acute inferiority complex all his life. His mother's maiden name was Stafford, and he managed to convince himself that her branch of the family were the rightful heirs to the Stafford title.

He wanted to change the family name to Stafford-Riordan. My mother would not allow this, but did permit him to give each of the three children three Christian names, with Stafford as the last, in the hope that we would see the light, and hyphenate our names when we grew up. My mother's great great great-grandmother was Emma Hamline, who was born in Cornwall in 1809, and I was christened Roger Hamline Stafford Riordan in her honour.

My father had intended to send us all to private schools, where the plague of names may not have been too much of an embarrassment, but the war intervened, and we moved to Mount Dandenong, where we attended the local State School, and then Upwey High School. The parents of most of the children were farmers or shopkeepers, and they made a great deal of fun of all our names.

So we are all rather coy about them, though much later my brother Ric, who rode a motorcycle, claimed that they did once come in handy when he was pulled up by a policeman. When asked for his full name Ric spelt out each name, as the cop laboriously wrote it down, but when he got to Riordan he had already used up all the allocated space on the booking form, so he tore it up, and muttered in exasperation "Oh, piss off, but don't let me catch you again".

And we even have a dinkum family Coat of Arms, which my father purchased at great expense from the Royal College of Heralds while we were in England. It is a very pretty piece of work, but I gather that its only real significance is that it proves that my father was foolish (or vain) enough to pay an exorbitant amount of money to buy it. I had the original parchment, and was rather amused when hucksters offered me a "beautiful reproduction" of some totally ficticious Riordan coat of arms.

 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019

Exotic names