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Sunday, June 18, 2006

'Our Fathers Were Englishmen Which Came Over This Great Ocean....'

As you know if you keep up with your reading of puff-pieces in the media, today is Paul McCartney's 64th birthday. As a teenager, McCartney wrote "When I'm 64," which is basically about how ineffectual and marginalized we are when we're old. The song has a cheery kid-ditty bounciness and is both patronizing and sentimental, not an easy hat trick. Not all of us have to face our youthful smugness quite so squarely as Sir Paul does today—fortunately for us.

Coincidentally, McCartney was the longtime husband of the late Linda Eastman, who was a photographer. Paul is by most accounts a devoted father. I especially like the fact that despite being a self-made billionaire he never wanted a big house, because he wanted to be near his family, not "knocking about" in some remote wing of the mansion somewhere.

A few other fathers, in keeping with the day:

Bill Cosby, TV father, real father, and author of the book Fatherhood. Tragically, his son was the victim of a murder

Another tragic murder victim, James Jordan, father of Michael

Ward Cleaver. (June's immortal line: "Ward, I'm worried about the Beaver.")

Don't do this at home

William Henry Fox Talbot, the English father of photography

Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, the French father of photography

Eastman Kodak used to be called "the Great Yellow Father" by photographers

King Saud, founder of modern Saudi Arabia, who had 37 sons

King Mufasa, father of Simba

My son when he was young watching the death of Mufasa in The Lion King

Father Charles Coughlin, an early "father" of the politics of resentment and a precursor of today's radio demagogues

Frank Gilbreth, immortalized as the father in the book Cheaper by the Dozen

Earl Woods

George Washington, the father of his country

Father Time

William Bradford

William Bradford was born in 1590 and came to North America on the ship Mayflower, landing in Plymouth, Massachussets in 1620. He left a son in the Netherlands where his sect had been refugees, and his son's mother, his wife Dorothy, died on the passage. But he later married again, to Alice Southworth, who arrived at Plymouth in 1623 aboard the ship Little James. Bradford became governor of Plymouth early on and remained so nearly until his death in 1657 (300 years almost to the month before I was born), and wrote the first great account of the settling of North America by Europeans, the great journal Of Plymouth Plantation. Alice and William had three children in New England and now have many descendants.

Here is part of Bradford's account of the Pilgrims' arrival, edited a bit for readability:

"Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees & blessed ye God of heaven, who had brought them over ye vast & furious ocean, and delivered them from all ye perils & miseries thereof, again to set their feet on ye firm and stable earth, their proper element. And no marvel if they were thus joyful, seeing wise Seneca was so affected with sailing a few miles on ye coast of his own Italy, as he affirmed, that he [would] rather remain twenty years on his way by land, then pass by sea to any place in a short time, so tedious & dreadful was ye same unto him.

"But here I cannot but stay and make a pause, and stand half amazed at this poor peoples' present condition; and so I think will the reader too, when he well consider[s] ye same. Being thus past ye vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation..., they had now no friends to welcome them, nor inns to entertain or refresh their weather-beaten bodies, no houses or much less towns to repair to, to seek for succor [...] What could not sustain them but ye spirit of God & his grace? May not & ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: ‘Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto ye Lord, and he heard their voice, and looked on their adversity….’ "

And so I should say, I guess, according to his instructions—he was my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather.



Blogger Marcel said...

"Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, the French father of photography"
Mmmmm..... what happened to Nicephore Niepce?

6:01 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Well, not to be indelicate about it, but he DIED--in 1833, six years before Daguerre unveiled the process the two had worked on together. None of Niepce's inventions were ever officially acknowledged. Had he lived, it's quite plausible that he would have deserved to be known as the "French father of photography." As it is, he, like Herschel, was an important contributor. So...father of the physautotype?


6:21 PM  
Blogger Life'scomfort said...

Oh, this post took me down the memory lane i thank God photografer that that made the past so visible.

5:46 AM  
Blogger Ernest Theisen said...

This is very well done Mike. I love the shot of your son peaking through the stair rails. I have a grandaughter that peaks around the corner of the hallway wall when things are not going well for Harry Potter.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

For me it was hiding behind the armchair at my grandmother's from the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz...



9:14 PM  

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