. . . or none of the above. “Never heard of him” would be the reaction of at least 99.99999+% of the eight billion people on the planet, if you asked them whether they had ever heard of “Frank O’Meara”. The 0.00000+1% who might say “Yes” would be aficionados of Impressionism, ultra-rare birds, culture-vultures, who recognize the name of a talented 19th century Irish artist who bore the same moniker as myself. The surname might ring a rare bell for history-buffs who have heard of the Irish surgeon, Dr Barry Edward O’Meara, who for three years served on the island of St Helena as the physician of the imperial prisoner, His Majesty Napoleon, whom his British jailers addressed as “General Bonaparte”. Doctor O’Meara spent those three years recording for posterity the exploits of the Emperor in a two-volume work which, along with the biography of Admiral Las Cases, assured that he would never be forgotten.
My grandfather, Michael O’Meara, who emigrated to Australia in 1880, has been almost entirely forgotten in Toomevara (“Tomb of the Meara”), our family seat in Tipperary. Even in his adopted country where he spent most of his life, only his few surviving grandchildren may remember him . . . vaguely. People who live in Kogarah’s O’Meara Street have no idea that their street was named after a certain successful local entrepreneur whom his children called “The Boss”.
Some people would like to be better known, famous even, but know they have Buckley’s. Others prefer quasi-anonymity. They may be proud of their achievments but opt for a low profile. They enjoy their reputation, as well as the company and admiration of a restricted number of friends, but avoid the media. Others, like my plumber, would sell their wife to have their fifteen minutes of glory on the tube.
Having a household name or being recognized in the street is not everybody’s cuppa. But even those who love being in the spotlight know that fame or even recognition is short-lived. Napoleon spent his life and especially his exile in crafting his image for posterity. He wanted desperately to be remembered, and he succeeded – for better or for worse . . . But we have to wonder why he bothered. Even the brilliant, self-made, egocentric Emperor realized that he would not be around to enjoy his posthumous fame.
What, after all, is the point in being remembered ? “Lest we Forget” is the motivation for naming streets, erecting statues and celebrating anniversaries of famous figures of yesteryear. But often street-names are changed, statues – for political reasons or because of corrosion – are not replaced or repaired, and people forget why we celebrate Joe Blow Day.
At the end of the day moving forward, at 84 and bound for Boot Hill, I frankly – what else ? – don’t care whether or not I will be remembered. “Carpe the diem”, which I am lucky enough to be enjoying right now as I type, is my priority. But after I die I would be flattered to discover, were I not non-existent, that anyone was reading this and the rest of my blog, after my mortal coil has been definitively uncoiled.