I just found some skeletons in the closet…

Mal
3 min readMay 2, 2024

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I recently learned a few things about my father’s father, my paternal grandfather that are… well, not really skeletons, but nevertheless disconcerting. Here is a little family history that will shed a bit of light on this.

As far as I know, starting with me, and going back through the patrilineal line of my family, no one was ever born on American soil. I was born in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia in 1950. My Father was born in Baguio, a mountain village on the Philippine island of Luzon, in 1911. My father’s father, my paternal grandfather was born in Grahamstown, British Colonial South Africa, known today as Makhanda.

My Paternal Grandfather — Robert Alexander Duckworth-Ford, AKA R. A. Godlonton

Although it took some digging to discover the location of my Grandfather’s birthplace, because for reasons that are unclear to me, he changed his surname from Godlonton to Duckworth-Ford, and listed his birthplace as Ceylon (not South Africa, his true birthplace). He was often referred to as “Ducky”, because of his self-assumed last name.

Trying to ferret out the details of my grandfather’s lineage has been quite a challenge, largely because he went to some effort to hide his true identity. It is rumored that he fled South Africa and changed his name because he was trying to avoid conscription into the South African Army. There is also a rumor that he was fleeing a “shotgun” wedding because he got someone pregnant who he did not want to marry. I haven’t been able to nail down the true reason for his flight, but it seems clear he did flee and change his identity.

He was living in Chula Vista, California when he died in 1950, just before I was born, so I never met him.

In 1945, less than a month after the first nuclear bomb test, he published an article in the Chula Vista Star newspaper in which he extolls the wonders The Mighty Atom.

An Article published in the Chula Vista Star that was written by My Grandfather, R. A. Duckworth-Ford

He also wrote to Albert Einstein, but as far as I know never received a reply.

Letter from my grandfather to Albert Einstein

It seems that my grandfather felt the development of an atomic bomb was a good thing because he felt it would “…reinforce and add vigor to the prestige and influence of the great English-speaking Democracies….”
I don’t share his view.

My Father — Durban Glanville Duckworth-Ford

My Father, Durban Glanville Duckworth-Ford, Ducky’s son, was born in Baguio, a mountain village on the Philippine island of Luzon. I had the very good fortune to be born into a family that carted me all over the world. From Arabia, where I was born, to Kenya, Turkey, the Philippines, Europe, and many other places around the our planet. In the 50’s we flew in propeller airplanes, hopping from island to island when crossing the Pacific and Atlantic. We also traveled by steamship which I think was strictly in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. And there were several family car trips across the United States and Europe.

I am so very grateful for the wonderful life that I have enjoyed. My travels all over this planet have taught me much about the good fortune that has come my way, especially as I compare my circumstances to those of so many people I have seen on my travels.

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Mal

On the internet they can’t tell that you’re actually a dog…