It’s time. I’ve had this post in the back of my mind for the past twenty-nine years, and now the time is right. Time for me to put on paper my long regret, in order for me to move forward.
I refer to who I am, deep down. Who am I? In short, I am Pat Burke. Since 1985, I have used the Irish version of my name. I like the Irish language; in fact, I like it very much! However, the reason behind my decision at the time is filled with confusion, and as the years rolled my confusion continued.
Journey back with me, please. I had been teaching in Dublin since 1978, using my given name, Pat Burke. I started my second teaching job in West Waterford in October 1985. A strange thing happened on the day I was signing my contract. A certain local priest, who shall remain name nameless, visited my home. As I was ready to sign the agreement, he mentioned that he had a “favour” to ask. He said that he would like it very much if I were to use the Irish version of my name, Pádraig de Búrca. Now, it needs to be said that I applied for the job as Pat Burke, and I was informed in writing that I was successful. The letter is in my name, Pat Burke. I felt certain that he was flying a kite; that this suggestion came from him alone, and was not in any way associated with the Board of Management of the school.
Fast thinking time…and to my regret I agreed. I felt really that my choices were limited. In 1985 Catholic Ireland, what the priest wanted he usually got! So, I started 22 years teaching in West Waterford as Pádraig de Búrca. Immediately, I discovered that I was in reality two persons! My parents and family knew me as nothing other than Pat. In fact, all of my schoolboy friends did likewise! I was a schizophrenic! Monday to Friday at work I was Pádraig, and everywhere else I was Pat. Shortly afterwards, in order to rectify the situation, I changed my name officially to the Irish version. Within months, Pádraig de Búrca was on all my correspondence, and as I began to integrate back into Dungarvan life, I became known as such. Many many people became very confused.
I joined the Dungarvan Badminton Club as Pádraig, met my future wife as Pádraig, and as the years again rolled on I joined Dungarvan Cycling Club as Pádraig. Understandably, the transition was a difficult one for my parents, siblings, cousins and school friends.
Interestingly, my wife and I adopted a slight variation. I did not like Pádraig, as it has a very rough gutteral sound (for anyone unfamiliar with the language the phonetic pronunciation is “paw-drig”). The d in the middle really bugged me, and so we used Páraig (paw-rig) at home! More split personality issues now.
In or about 2010, my family and I had a discussion about this, and I was glad that we did. I was happy once again to be called Pat by my mam, and my brothers and sisters (dad had passed on). Some had a tough time getting used to the initial change, and equally found it easier just to stick with Pádraig. Some rowed in with my Páraig variation , while some were more comfortable with Pat. My nephews and nieces are completely confused.
So, let me put this to bed. My name is Pat Burke, always was, and always will be. The Irish version of my name really is not me. So, what happens now?
Realistically, I am not going to change my name back again. I know so many people through teaching, friendships and local involvement with several clubs and organisations that it would be very impractical. My darling wife calls me Páraig, and this I like almost as a term of endearment as it originated only between both of us. I have several close friends who call me Páraig, and this too pleases me. I am 100% more comfortable with Páraig as opposed to Pádraig. But, the time is right for me to be called Pat by my family. Full circle….in fact, several interconnected loops…
Footnote: I started using Facebook in 2010. Since then I’ve used so many variations that even Facebook itself is at its’ wits end: Pádraig de Búrca, Pat Pádraig Burke, Pádraig Pat Burke, Pat Burke, Paddy Burke (don’t know how I thought that up!) and currently Páraig Pat Burke. Last week, I tried to edit my name on Facebook to “Páraig de Búrca” and use “Pat Burke” as a nickname, and here is the error message that came up: “You can’t update your name right now because you’ve already changed it too many times. Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real names, so you always know who you’re connecting with. This helps keep our community safe.” I wonder perhaps would it make a difference if I were to email / share this with Mr. Z. Perhaps I’ll launch a campaign to force FB to allow more than six name-changes, without undermining safety issues! I think ten would be an acceptable number.
Here’s a lovely story to finish: I joined Tried & Tested Triathlon Club, using my official Pádraig de Búrca title. The club uses Facebook for messaging. When a member of the committee met me recently, she mentioned that she does not know what to call me, and was sure that my Christian name was Páraig Pat, as in persons using two Christian names e.g Paddy Joe or Mary Ann. I appreciated her curiosity!
If you were able to follow all of that, I’d love to hear your slant on it! If you are completely muddled, that’s understandable.
Have you any tales to tell about family names?