Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend

This coming weekend is Memorial Day weekend and I will be joining my wife and her/our friends on a beach trip to Santa Rosa beach in Florida. This weekend marks the official start of the summer vacation period and it is bookended by Labor Day at the end of the summer.

But Memorial Day has a very serious reason for being in existence, it is to remember members of the armed forces who gave their lives in service to their country. Not to be mixed up with Veterans Day (Nov 11th) which is for all living veterans of the armed forces.

Military Veterans Grave in Decatur, GA

As usual for me when something new comes up I have to do a small bit of research. And it’s funny the things you find out, Memorial Day was founded after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Considering I now live in Decatur, GA, it’s a strange one that Memorial day has its origins in another Decatur!

Memorial Stone in Decatur Cemetery
Plaque on Memorial Stone

Being a former member of the Irish Defence Forces I can appreciate Memorial Day and it is something that we back in Ireland are really only to start recognize as a nation. The Defence Forces always had commemorations for fallen comrades and I was lucky in my role as photographer to have a front row view of those ceremonies every year. A few years ago a new monument was erected in Dublin to remember all members of the Irish Defence Forces who had died, both at home and abroad.

Irish Defence Forces Memorial Monument

As this weekend I will be away in Florida the blog will be taking a little break as well but I will be back with a post or two next week. Also keep an eye out for a podcast on featuring myself and the story behind and the story of me in America.

A stroll around Decatur Historic Cemetery

A stroll around Decatur Historic Cemetery

Last night as my wife, Leanne, played tennis at Glenlake I had the opportunity to take a walk accompanied by our 2 dogs, Bozley and Lassie, around Decatur Historic Cemetery. As a photographer and a person, cemeteries have always held a special kind of fascination for me. Looking at headstones, reading the names and dates, trying to find the curious, oldest or strangest headstones and wonder about the stories of the lives of the people interred within.

Decatur Cemetary (9)
Looking across Decatur Cemetery

And so I set off at approx 6.30pm not realizing how big the cemetery actually was, it was a lovely evening, not to hot, but just nice with a slight breeze to cool the air. I followed the path to the oldest part, using google maps to help me find my way. Admiring the lovely greenery and pond, which I later found out is stocked with fish, I made my way passed some lovely headstones, all immaculately kept.The cemetery itself is approx 58 acres with about 7.5 acres allocated to the oldest part. The oldest headstones date from 1827/28, which means the cemetery pre-dates the city of Atlanta by more than a decade.

Enjoying the evening sun and cool breeze meant the walk was very leisurely and the dogs were nice and relaxed walking by my side, especially as I stopped quite often to view a headstone, take a photo or just look across the expanse of the cemetery. I had made my way from one side of the cemetery to the other when I came across a strange looking headstone/memorial in the shape of a reclining man that I just had to get a photograph of. It was only on my way back across the cemetery that I found the cemetery office and got a booklet that explains the history of the cemetery and contains information about some of the more significant headstones that I found out what and who it was for.

Decatur Cemetary (18)
Reclining Man – To commemorate a 17 year old Eagle Scout, David Hicks, and designed from his own drawing by his architect father

As i continued my stroll I kept looking out for older and more curious headstones. I came across some WW1 veterans, some Civil War vets, Korea,Vietnam, WW2 and other conflicts around the globe. There were families, children, some simple headstones , some very ornate and some that were just plaques in the ground. One that caught my eye was for an infant of just 2 days old, and being the brother of a young sister I never knew due to her passing at 6 weeks this one hit home a little. The headstone to my sister is now safe in my parents garden back in Dublin.

Decatur Cemetary (17)
Only 2 days old….RIP

And so with the time approaching 7.45pm and the dogs running out of steam I decided to head back to watch some tennis and see how Leanne was doing. Her match had got delayed so was only starting so I had time to do another small walk as I had noticed one particular stone in the booklet that I wanted to see. Young Beverly Claire Bottoms was tragically killed when she was struck by a car when out cycling. She was an avid reader and at night after the lights were turned off she would go under the covers and read some books. Her father designed a special memorial for her that sits beside her grave and below is a picture of that special memorial.

Decatur Cemetary (22)
Beverly Claire Bottoms – 1957 -1964 RIP

I have lots more photos so I will include a gallery at the bottom of this post and I will definitely be returning to Decatur Historic Cemetery and finding out lots more about not only the history of the cemetery but the stories behind some of those interred within its boundaries. I hope you enjoyed my tale about my walk around Decatur cemetery and I hope to continue to discover new things about Decatur and Atlanta over the coming months as I settle into life in America, specifically Decatur. Oh and aside from all that Leanne and her doubles partner, Deanne, won their second match of the week are into the final on Sunday.



For Bozley

For Bozley

Our little schnoodle had to go in for an operation to have his leg removed yesterday. The surgery went really well and he is back home to us today. For anyone that doesn’t understand how much a pet means probably doesn’t get how emotional it can be seeing your little dog after an operation like Bozley had.


He has his cone again and he will struggle to jump up for a while but we will look after him. Lassie, our Border Collie isn’t to sure about what happened but she is on the couch beside him so they will be grand together.

We have to thank The Village Vets in Decatur for looking after our little guy and giving him the best chance of an extended life. We also want to thank everyone that has sent good thoughts, messages and texts over the last two days.

Today’s post was supposed to be about me attending my first festival in Atlanta as we attended the Dogwood Festival in Piedmont Park earlier today but our dog took precedence. I will post later in the week about my first visit to the Dogwood festival and my thoughts on the festival season here in Atlanta.

Irish bars or Not!

One of the things I particularly don’t like is the ‘fake’ Irish bar, its annoying, commercial and mainly either English or just plastic. Old wood and Guinness doesn’t make your bar Irish, no matter how many road signs from Ireland you stick on the wall. As a marketing tool and a way of getting customers in the door I have no problem with it, everyone wants to make a few dollars here and there.

I am lucky here to have a found a few good Irish bars, one not so great but passable due to its fantastic breakfast and another I still have to try. My favourite has to be Mac Magees on the Square in Decatur. Since I walked in randomly last February it has kind of become my local, and yes its a bit like Cheers theme tune, it is nice when you walk in for the barman to say Hi to you by name, or maybe that means I am there to often. The Guinness is nice and the bar is cosy but not to small. the food is Irish(ish)and tasty. If you like Whiskey, well then it is certainly the place to go to. With the added bonus of actual Irish staff I always feel at home and welcome.

Atlanta Photos Feb 2015 (87)
Pint of Guinness on the counter in Mac McGee, Decatur

Mac Mcgees has become our ‘go to’ place at times and it was here last Feb that we had a very memorable evening so it holds a special place in our hearts. After our rehearsal dinner we even went to the bar for a few beers and after our wedding Leanne got to pull me my first pint of Guinness as a married couple. I have ventured into Fados in Buckhead a few times and I am not overly impressed but on a Saturday morning it does open early for sports and serves a wonderful breakfast. It is possibly one of the more popular Irish bars in Atlanta and I wouldn’t be totally against going there, but it falls into the bracket of wood and Irish signs and expensive beers. Oh and it charges $20 when the Six Nations Rugby is on TV so I don’t bother and I reckon on St Patrick’s Day it is one of the most popular spots to go for a beer in Atlanta.

Pint of Guinness on the counter in Mac McGee, Decatur

Last night I had a pleasure of going to the Olde Blind Dog pub in Brookhaven. As soon as we walked in we were met by a friendly kilt wearing barman who pulled 2 lovely pints of Guinness and they tasted just like home. That was me sold on the place but then we ordered food, again it was excellent and plentiful. |So far so good, it had music playing and he wasn’t just playing Irish stuff but mixing it up a bit, there were only 2 TV’s that I could see, so it was a good spot. The decor was OK, all dark wood and glass with walls decorated to look look like streets in Dublin, no plastic road signs to make the place look Irish here, paint a whole wall like Dublin, good move.

Cheers and drink responsibly! 

There are still a few other Irish bars i have to try, Rí Rá in Atlanta is one of my places to visit, even though they do have an English soccer jersey in the window, the place comes recommended by a fellow Irishman. We have been in the Marlay in Decatur just once so it would be a bit unfair to comment but it was nice and had a few GAA flags flying. But overall though the Irish bars aren’t bad and over the next few months I hope to visit a few more and see what they are like