Skip to main content


My mum's sister, who had been informed of my previous post in which I declared my plans to write my mum's story, just called to say that my mum was not 'sent away' after her father died, but at 13 years old, four years after.  She also said that my mum was not 'sent away' by their mother but by the authorities.  But those same authorities needed a document signed and it was my gran who signed it when her eldest went away, and it was her who signed the release paper seven years later.  It was not a compulsory sending away by the authorities but a voluntary one by the parent.  That is not to say that I am blaming my gran who died in 1990.  I am not.  I spent many a weekend at my gran's house as a child and I totally understand how difficult it must have been to have been left alone with seven children all that time ago, but I believe a story can be told as objectively as possible, without laying blame at people's feet.  It is naturally very difficult when one is about to delve into murky waters and start to bring skeletons out of the closet - it scares people who thought they had put those skeletons behind them.  But that does not mean that a veil of silence should be preserved.  Yet the same aunt who called me this morning is not the one who had to live with the fall-out of the years my mum had spent there - that dubious privilege fell to us, her children, or more specifically to me, her eldest daughter because my mum didn't have anyone else to talk to.  Therefore I think I've earned the right to tell my mum's story.  My mum also once said that she had planned herself to write about her time spent at Brockhall, but life got in the way, then, a few years later, alcohol and kids.  I have already begun my research and have already come across troubling accounts of the time spent there by other people who say they were mocked, hit and force-fed.  I also know this because it was along the same lines as the stories my mum had relayed back to me about her own time.  I think what is interesting about telling someone's story is how everyone's memories of what happened are different - that's because everyone experiences things in a different way, even if it is of the same situation.  And I will attempt to be as clear about my own mother's experiences as I can.


Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

Booker Shortlist announced

It's been a while... I know. Dog walking on the Downs, a bit of theatre, a bit of baking, a bit of writing etcetera etcetera. I also managed to read two complete books in the past month, which I was so pleased about. I had not read a whole book for about a year. The first was A Lie About My Father by Scottish poet/writer, John Burnside; a very well written memoir about father and son, but like all memoirs, some unreliability I felt. Poignant and tragic in equal measure. Then my husband returned from Cyprus (too hot for me this time of year, I can barely cope with England!) with Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. He loved it. And then I read it and also loved it. I had originally picked it up several years ago but didn't get beyond Amiens, where the first section is set, but was really glad I did this time around. Another incredibly well written book in the style of a good Victorian! I felt a bit unsure about bits of Elizabeth, in the later section, but I have never learnt so muc…

Days Without End and Mosul's Avengers

So fed up am I of buying books that I don't finish, that I decided I would go to the local library for a copy of Sebastian Barry's latest novel, Days Without End, which has just been awarded the Costa Prize. Unfortunately, I could only borrow it on the proviso that it was return by 1 February. I returned it the day after, without having finished it. I was about three quarters through, and will now have to go out and buy it for the final quarter. I loved Barry's The Secret Scripture, and on every publication of a new work, his star rises. Days Without End follows two boys, one descended from native Americans, and the other having arrived on one of the notorious coffin ships from famine struck Sligo. The tale is brave, funny, touching, but most of all Barry has achieved the perfect pitch. It is quite remarkable.

Another remarkable work comes in the form of reportage in the New Yorker (February 6, 2017) The Avengers of Mosul, by Luke Mogelson 'A Reporter at Large'.