Amaya’s dverse prompt yesterday made me look up the meaning of my family names. My dad had one version, which I realise now is non-standard. I never knew what my mother’s name meant until now. Could explain a lot.


On one side hurtful, sorrow on the other,

How could I be other than I am?

From inauspicious names, a quiet fury,

With eyes wide open to see the pain,

Hands outstretched to touch the wounds,

And tongue whiplashed to deny the lies.

Pain and sorrow, in all around I see,

Ancestors who saw it all, abide with me.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

43 thoughts on “Sorrow”

  1. family names gave insight to occupation, economic as well as social strata. I am intrigued you discovered sorrow and hurt in your research. those must have been a stigma to bear.

    1. Irish family names go back thousands of years, before there were really many occupations as such, and social status wasn’t as rigid as it became in more modern times. They were often nicknames or related to an exploit or an incident. I’m not sure people would have felt burdened by them. They probably had other more important things to worry about 🙂

      1. probably just as a mean s of identification then. my dad can trace back our family name to France and the coat of arms etc, not something I fix a lot of importance to. I was fascinated with the loyalty to family name and clan after reading the Outlander series, the Scots made family names a scared entity. Irish names are quite easily identifiable and always carry a certain mysticism with it, like a link to folklore and magic.

      2. The modern French certainly don’t attach any importance to blasons. Only the nobility had them and the Revolution had something to say about them. The Scots are maybe so hung up about their clans because they were conquered people and absorbed into the United Kingdom from the beginning of the seventeenth century. They also reinvented a lot of traditions at the Gaelic revival like the Welsh did because the English slapped it all out of them centuries before.

      3. the greater danger of eradication pulls a culture tighter around its heritage I suppose. my dad’s cousins researched our family tree extensively back to when we had ancestors who ruled in France and India. you are right it is of little importance to us younger ones but is still part of our history in that name. interesting how the people of the British Isles are so greatly diverse and the history behind keeping their own traditions scared. end of day the deeper we delve into it they all have a common origin. mythical or otherwise.

      4. The British Isles have been invaded by so many different peoples the English in particular are a real rag bag of origins, which is possibly why they don’t have a very strong mythological culture. It’s been changed or wiped out so often. The old Celtic tribes were pushed to the north and west, and nobody much bothered the Irish, so they kept their mythology intact.

  2. I have never thought of it that way… family names are so young in Sweden … mine goes back only three generations… before that we carried the name of our fathers… I would have been Björn Stensson … (my fathers name was Sten, which means rock)

  3. I enjoyed this darker response to the prompt. The imagery is powerful as I see you stretching out in all directions for more than sorrow and pain.

  4. I love the quoting and wonderful use of the hymn, a recognition of the pain and sorrow that is our lot, our heritage, and the appropriation of “abide with me” a recognition of our origins and that they are right there with us. We propagate pain and sorrow and are also the fruits thereof. But I find it beautifully compassionate, a grace if you will, that You write it as an abiding and not an outright refutation. Jane, you seem to have the ability to see how hard things are/were for others. A lot to think about here.

    1. It probably sounds terrible, and it’s certainly politically incorrect, but coming from where I do, it irritates me intensely when I hear immigrants complaining about not being able to do things that are either illegal or simply culturally unethical. Like insisting that their girl children don’t sit next to boys in class, that the meat served in the school canteen must be halal, that girls be excused swimming lessons, that they are allowed to be excised in public hospitals, that they set their washing up on the pavement to dry, the list is endless. If we had even murmured about the way we were treated we’d have been told to go home. I believe in integration, not communitarianism, which seems to me to be a voluntary form of segregation. There’s enough suffering in the world because of ‘differences’. To celebrate and insist upon being different doesn’t make for a happy society.

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