Maybe this was my ‘plane. Maybe not.
My head is still partly in NI. Talking to Aunt this evening, telling her who I had seen, what I had done, I mentioned that I have obtained a copy of my mother’s birth certificate, and was surprised to see that it was my grandmother who had registered the birth, almost a month after that auspicious event, and just two days before Christmas.
I have said before that Mother and her siblings had a hard childhood. Aunt had a particularly tough time. Both she and Mother were taken to live with a couple who treated them very badly.
Mother ran away.
The first time she took Aunt, and they each carried their meagre possessions. As Aunt said tonight, that made their progress through hedges and across fields difficult.
They didn’t get very far before they were caught and taken back. Mother was beaten to within an inch of her life with a stick cut from the hedge. Her vest stuck to her back with blood. Aunt could do nothing but howl. Then Mother was sent to bed in a loft, told the police would come for her in the morning because of her wickedness, and Aunt was forbidden to speak to her.
The sisters were seven and four at the time.
Their mother had died following the birth of her tenth child, my Aunt Nessa. Aunt has not a single memory of her mother. She was so young. I repeated a story I have often heard from Mother, that their aunt came to the house a few days after her sister’s death. The sisters were alike. Aunt seeing her, said,”Look, Mummy’s back.”
Aunt doesn’t remember this. She didn’t know this story until I told it to her an hour or so ago. She does remember their oldest sister who was ten taking her into a field, making her sit down, and telling her their mother had gone to live in heaven. My mother had run down to the end of the field with Bill and was shedding tears into a sheep’s woolly back.
The second time Mother ran away she didn’t take Aunt. She ran from school which Aunt was too young to attend. This time the search party that found her huddled in some old wallsteads, fearing sher would be eaten by wolves, included the police.
Her father asked if the couple she was living with had treated her badly. Yes, she said. She was allowed to go home. Not that things were much better there, but she had her siblings. They were together in hardship.
But Aunt was left where she was until she was eighteen and got away to Belfast.
As she said tonight, it’s hardly surprising she went into childcare, and had a particular interest in working with ‘difficult’ children who had been neglected or abused. Providing a safe, nurturing environment for them helped heal some of her hurts.
In recent weeks Camila Batmanghelidjh who founded Kids Company has come in for increasing amounts of criticism. It seems some unwise decisions were taken at the helm, and she is to stand down. I heard her speak once, and it made a big impression. I have supported the charity ever since. I hope the rumours and accusations turn out to be false, and do not overshadow the importance of her work, and her achievement in bringing the plight of vulnerable children and young people to our attention.