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The Primal Wound
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2015 10:24 pm    Post subject: The Primal Wound Reply with quote

It shows how far we have come that the Daily Mail, of all papers, is standing up for the rights of single mothers. It has been running a series of heart breaking stories of young women forced to give up their babies for adoption between about 1950 and 1980 but mostly in the 50s and 60s.

There was no indication that they would have been bad mothers. But they had become pregnant while unmarried and, even in the Swinging Sixties, that was almost a hanging offence. They were not told about the benefits available to them. People did not want to give them accommodation in case they were tainted by association.

Now, they or some of them want an apology from the government, which has already happened in Australia. I think an apology is called for, but perhaps not from the government. The whole of society was complicit in this. The government was not directly involved. It just did nothing to prevent it. Perhaps the queen should apologise. David Cameron wasn't even born until the late 60s.

No doubt, feminists are often right to blame patriarchal society for the oppression of women. But patriarchy is only indirectly implicated here. Some irresponsible men may have left their girlfriends in the lurch.

But if they were under 21, they needed their parents' permission to marry. The father of an 'illegitimate' child had no rights in connection with it until the Children Act of 1989.

It really was a flagrant case of woman's inhumanity to woman. Female social workers were often vicious to these young women, treating them as if they had committed a crime. They treated them as if they were deviants, delinquents, mentally ill. The girls were brought to their knees, figuratively and also literally, scrubbing floors, praying.

They often elected to give birth blindfold so they would not have to see the baby and be devastated. Female 'moral welfare' workers enthused, ''It's so good for them.'' I consulted long out of print books by female social workers
at the Arts and Social Studies library in Cardiff in 2003, in the run up to investigating the mystery of my own birth. I couldn't believe what I was reading.

Human beings can't really have changed so much since the 60s that it was good for a woman who had just given birth to have the baby torn from her arms or to be forbidden to look at it, or to know beforehand as she felt it somersaulting inside her, that she would never be allowed to know it.

These moral welfare workers were self deluding sadists addicted to domination and control. They would tell a new mother to ignore her baby, leaving it unable to interact with anyone. Apparently, they weren't bothered about the effect this would have on the child's development.

Even Lady Macbeth said, ''I have given suck and know how tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me.'' How could these social workers, women themselves, behave with such calculated cruelty?

Some of them may have been elderly embittered virgins who lost their fianc├ęs in the First World War. They would just not have admitted to themselves that they were being cruel. They would have called it morality or having high standards. They thought they were doing something good.

Perhaps most people would have agreed with them. Society was not quite as secularised as it is now, and people still often said 'immorality' when they meant pre-marital sex. On a 1966 TV chat show, Spike Milligan said that if his unmarried daughter aged 16 told him she was pregnant, he'd say, ''Good, I'm going to be a grandfather''.

People now would look at that and think, ''So?'' At the time, it was almost revolutionary. A lot of parents would have kicked their daughters out of the house.

As late as the 80s, I saw on a TV talk show a woman who remarked casually that she was a mother and unmarried. A man in the audience started shouting that not long ago, no one would have admitted that on TV. They'd have been ashamed. He obviously thought things had been better in the past. But not long ago, no one would have been seen dead with his haircut either.

I can speak with some authority on the effect on the children. I believe I do suffer from the primal wound which adoptees are thought to bear, but only slightly. I know other people who have it much worse.

The main way it effects me is that if I am rejected, I not only accept it will be permanent. I make damned sure it will be. Sometimes I don't wait for the rejection, but drop suddenly and without explanation out of the life of someone who has cared about me, savouring the pain it will cause, although, otherwise, there is not a cruel bone in my body.

I can feel I am on the brink of behaving in this destructive and catastrophic way again. There is nothing to gain from it. I must pull myself together.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2015 10:38 pm    Post subject: affects Reply with quote

I meant to say 'affects' not 'effects.' It's my little contribution to the growing illiteracy of these islands.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2015 12:09 pm    Post subject: Woodentop Reply with quote

Father Dougal was, of course, joking when he said he thought it was a dirty shame that unmarried mothers were now tolerated, and their children were treated like everyone else. But some people would have meant it.

We should be eternally vigilant against a backlash. We can truthfully say that we had little concept of illegitimacy in Wales under the laws of Hywel Dda. I can't accept that illegitimacy is a legitimate concept when applied to a person. No pun intended.

It implies that they have no right to exist. If we had no legitimate reason to go to war with Iraq, it shouldn't have happened. In Wales, we mostly accepted that if you were here, you had a right to be here.

A 17 year old cook Mary Morgan was hanged for killing her new born child in Presteigne, a town half in Wales and half in England in 1805. She was probably suffering from post natal psychosis after giving birth in secret, but the assumed motive was shame at having produced a bastard. What makes this story all the more horrible is that she was given a reprieve but it came too late.

This sort of thing could not have been expected to happen in a town more thoroughly Welsh. As late as 1847, the royal commissioners of education were disgusted to find that society had a relaxed attitude to experimental sex among unmarried teenagers, and parents were as delighted to be presented with an illegitimate grandchild as one born in lawful wedlock.

According to the royal commissioners, young people hitchhiking together through the countryside, would spend the night in haylofts, where they customarily indulged in 'promiscuous intercourse.'

My adoptive parents were not at all tolerant on this score, and I was knocked for six to find out from public records that they both had grandmothers who gave birth as unmarried teenagers in the Victorian era. It was obvious that these girls had enjoyed the support of their parents. There was no question of parting with the babies.

But although we were angered by the Treason of the Blue Books, we were made insecure too. We began to feel that we should not be having so much sex - and especially not in hay lofts as John Davies joked.

We tried to live up to a squeaky clean image of 'Cymru lan, Cymru bur'. I have a vague memory that our school motto might have been 'Be Pure Be Clean Be Squeaky' or was it 'Be Pure Be Clean Behave'?

At about the turn of the last century, a dead baby 'about the size of a rabbit' was found abandoned in Burry Port. Then in 1907 a baby farmer was hanged in Cardiff. She was the last woman to be executed in Wales. This is what came of importing English ideas of morality!

It looks as if young single mothers were even worse off on average in the 1960s than they had been in the 1860s. The Swinging Sixties swung right past all those girls who fell for a baby.

Then in the 70s and 80s, came a silent revolution. Reports said that there were now few healthy white babies available for adoption. This must have been partly because of the advent of legal abortion. But it was mainly put down to unmarried mothers keeping their babies. The tone of the report indicated that this was very unsporting of them.

To black hearted Tories, this was not to be endured. Since 1987 there has been no concept of illegitimacy in British law except where things like succession to the throne are concerned. After all, it is a human rights abuse that one child should arbitrarily be assigned fewer rights at birth than another.

But as late as the 1990s, John Redwood was opining that the single mothers of St Mellons should give up their 'illegitimate' children for adoption. Playing on a word that has changed its meaning, a left wing paper ran a picture of him with the caption, 'Who'd Adopt This Bastard?'

This was part of the 'Back to Basics' campaign which fell apart in the wake of the auto-erotic asphyxiation scandal. We still hear intolerant grumbling about single mothers. The grumblers are powerless at the moment, but there is always a danger that progress will go into reverse. People who think they know what's best for other people are the most dangerous people in the world.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2015 5:13 pm    Post subject: Dangers Reply with quote

If people like Anjem Choudary had his way, the backlash would be pretty awful. It's not just mental cruelty that we'd be facing. People would be stoned to death in public, perhaps even for experiencing involuntary sex, or perhaps even for being the result of it.

The story persists that an abandoned new born baby found outside a mosque in Lahore was stoned to death by the worshippers in the 1980s on the grounds that it must have been illegitimate. In Islam illegitimacy is not permitted..

I was especially upset by this story as I first heard it not long after giving birth. Perhaps it is not true, but nothing is ever too bad to be true.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2015 6:11 pm    Post subject: Cyril Smith Reply with quote

Between 1913 and 1959 local authorities were permitted to consign to a mental hospital for life, a woman who had a non marital baby she would not be able to support financially. So it was quite brave and audacious of Cyril Smith's mother in the 1920s and 30s to have three children of unknown paternity whom she maintained by working as a maid.

Everyone knew each other's business in Rochdale. Some shopkeepers refused to serve Cyril Smith when he was a boy, in case the taint of his birth rubbed off on them. He also overheard someone telling his mother that she should have taken the speaker's advice, and put him in a home.

The Daily Mail deserves credit for running the story of the persecuted single mothers of the 60s. But when they ran the story of Cyril Smith, they didn't see him as the victim of an ancient prejudice.

A few contributors on the net have even seen fit to sneer at Smith's 'illegitimacy' along with his other failings in this day and age! Perhaps they are not very bright.

To me, it sounds horrific that shopkeepers wouldn't serve him. He was like a black boy in Alabama. But that's not how the Daily Mail saw it. According to the Mail, his problem was that he had a promiscuous mother.

It's true that by the time she was middle aged, this unmarried woman had had three children. Did that prove she was promiscuous? No, it proved she was not a virgin, and there are very few middle aged virgins. A man is never referred to in the papers as promiscuous unless he is gay.

I saw through Cyril Smith's jolly comedic routine as long ago as the 1980s. It was obvious just from watching Question Time that he was a cold unpleasant character. But I didn't suspect that he was anything worse.

The hurtful social ostracism he suffered as a boy can in no way excuse his disgusting exploitation of boys or his general dishonesty, and it may not explain them. His crimes might have happened anyway.

But perhaps social exclusion can sometimes lead to crime. That would explain the evolution of the word bastard from meaning the child of unmarried parents to its current meaning ie a thoroughly evil man. It would be understandable if a man embittered by unmerited stigma and unable to inherit anything from his parents, did turn to disreputable ways to make a living.

It's just astonishing how people will describe their callousness and bigotry as morality or conscience. This blinds them to the harm they do not only to individuals but society itself. We can't afford to breed disaffected outsiders for the sake of it.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2015 11:08 am    Post subject: Cut the cord ! Break the bond! Reply with quote

It might be useful for adult survivors of the boom days of adoption to discuss the psychological effects. This was the time of closed adoption. You weren't supposed to know who your real parents were, and you weren't supposed to be bothered.

Since the law changed in the 1970s to allow adoptees to trace their parents, those adopted before 1975, have had to have an interview with a counsellor. They had to be briefed on the worst that might happen.

The message was ''Don't expect it to be lovely because it probably won't be.'' You might be setting yourself up for a very hurtful rejection - the mother of all rejections.

And adult adoptees are often just the kind of people who can't handle rejection, perceived rejection or even personal misunderstandings. In my own case for instance, I had a -mostly- delightful friendship with Tim Saunders, who was a major figure in the revival of the Cornish language. He was a witty, very civilized man. His daughters Gwenno and Anna are now well known folk singers.

The only problem was that I'd internalised the negative attitude to me of someone with whom I had been in an unhelpful if not abusive relationship. I really believed that I had a dark side which might harm my friends, and I conveyed this in conversation to Tim.

Then one day, I saw Tim Saunders without his beard and failed to recognise him. It looked as if I was cutting him dead. I noticed someone was giving me glances that expressed consternation if not hurt. I couldn't think why.

The next time I saw clean shaven Tim Saunders, the penny dropped. But I felt unable to go up and explain the mistake. By puckish chance, an apparent rejection had occurred.

It couldn't be repaired. Regardless of how hurtful it might be, it just seemed impossible to do otherwise than continue to ignore him.

It sounds as if I was being pathetic, and I was. Babies put up for adoption in the 60s were victims of the intolerant social attitudes of the time.

In most cases, their parents or at least their mothers were victims too. They did not want to reject them. Ironically, they were told that giving them up was in the children's best interests.

No one was deliberately rejecting the babies. But that is how it was experienced. They didn't know why it was happening.

They just felt the 'primal wound.' And if the most important human bond can be severed at birth for no obvious reason, that set a precedent for severing less significant relationships throughout life, for the most arbitrary of reasons.

It sounds as if the adult adoptee is being flighty and cruel. This is how others perceive it. But the adult adoptee has no concept that a broken relationship can be mended.

Yet this can't be entirely true or why would they ever attempt to look for their real parents? Sometimes, it is only to shout abuse like, ''You bitch! You abandoned me!'' This is not to be recommended, and is extremely unfair, given that the mothers had no choice.

In my case, I gained a copy of my original birth certificate. A friend who used to work near my mother's home village, told me it was a very insular place.

Everyone knew everyone else. Even after thirty or more years, there were sure to be people there who knew my mother.

My partner and I went down. I was a bit put off by the guide book which said that the village was so insular that the women used to stone outsiders who came to it.

In the pub, I showed the birth certificate to the landlord. He knew my mother and all her relations. The barmaid went to get my aunt's address out of the phone book.

I was in an emotional state after being reassured that my mother was still alive. Even my partner claimed to feel dazed.

The counsellor didn't think I'd done a very clever thing at all. She said she'd looked at my file, and it created such a bleak impression that she was going to advise me not to write, and to go no further at all. But I had already done so.

She was wrong. I did get a warm welcoming response.

It was just as well. I felt so jaundiced about my adoptive parents that I felt I had 'divorced' them and not on arbitrary grounds this time.

In a flouncy gesture, I had changed my name by deed poll back to the name on my original birth certificate.

I didn't know then that my parents had subsequently married, giving my brother and sister a different surname from the one I was now using. I had no patience .

I felt like Cassius Clay reinventing himself as Mohammed Ali. I felt that Valerie Jenkins was my slave name. Marianne was the person I was born to be.

It was probably a mistake. I hadn't adopted my husband's surname, and rather disapproved of other women following this custom, partly because I perceived it as undignified and sexist, but mostly because it caused confusion and made it difficult to track people down.

So why had I changed my name now? I was being self important.

I felt I was luckier than most. My brother and sister were mature enough to accept me. There was no jealousy.

I thought we had some how recreated the bond that had been brutally cut. I thought it was a healing experience, that I no longer suffered from the primal wound.

Doreen Larsen who lived near my parents in the north of England told the local paper and the writer Sue Elliot about the 'hell' she had suffered. She had been forced to give up her baby son when she was 17. She didn't want to, but a magistrate threatened to put her in a mental hospital if she didn't give in.

Her son tracked her down as an adult. She thought it was a happy ending, that they had a good relationship. But suddenly, he broke off contact for no obvious reason. She never heard from him again.

Another mother was happy to be tracked down by her adult daughter. She thought they had a good relationship. One day at a party, she asked her daughter, ''Why are you wearing that black dress?'' She didn't even mean it as a criticism but she never saw or heard from her daughter again.

I'd really been trying desperately not to get into arguments with my real family. There were areas where we didn't see eye to eye, especially on theoretical things with my brother.

There had been a bit of a scene after he overheard me disagreeing with him. Perhaps he didn't think much of me after that but he heroically tolerated me.

My idea was, don't get into a war of words with someone you love - or someone you're prepared to love. I didn't intend to be controversial but I have a genius for saying and doing the wrong thing, try as I might to avoid it.

So the fact is I have fallen into an elephant trap where communication with the family is concerned, and partly for fear of saying anything lest it's the wrong thing, and partly because I only partly accept the criticism I've incurred but don't want to cause an argument by defending myself, I am now in a black spot where there's no communication at all. In theory, this doesn't have to be permanent, but I've an awful feeling it will be.

I say this as if I have no control over the situation. Of course this is not literally true. I am physically capable of picking up the phone. But it feels impossible.

On one level I'm aware that I'm being quite cruel. But I don't feel as if I am. I feel as if things are beyond my control.

I'm afraid this might be a multi-generational problem. One of my sons has the same approach to me.

I dare not say anything even slightly critical to the other two. But I don't need to either, as I feel nothing but admiration and awe for them. We might not always agree on ideology but on a personal level, it's all very positive.

I met a really tremendous woman in connection with an important court case she was sorting out for me. She was also an adult adoptee, a child of the 60s. I would have thought she could have got on with anyone as she has all the social skills I so painfully lack.

You would think she could get on with anyone. But I had a definite impression that she is no longer in contact with her natural mother although they have met.

My advice to adult adoptees who hope to form a permanent relationship with their birth families is the following. You may think that you have formed a close bond with your real family. You may think it is indestructible.

You're wrong. The thread is gossamer thin and could snap at any moment. Do anything you can to avoid it breaking.

The less you say, the less offence you can cause. So don't let careless words run away with you, whether in speech or writing.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2015 1:20 pm    Post subject: From passivity to prison Reply with quote

My adoptive mother told me that when I was given to her I was covered in sores. She thought some nurse had been delegated to look after me in the hospital where I was born, and had been too run off her feet with other duties to do it well. She also said I wasn't wrapped up against the cold as she would have expected.

I spoke to an adult adoptee who had been a war baby born in 1946. His adoptive mother said he was nothing but a bag of bones when he was given to her. He was malnourished and had had pneumonia.

I had wondered if this was a common happening. Perhaps in the case of non marital children who were to be adopted, social workers were responsible for gross neglect which it should have been their responsibility to prevent.

I also think this may explain my friend's passivity. He has been in an abusive marriage between 1969 and 2010. His wife had assaulted him with pokers, shovels and all sorts of implements. He put up with it for most of his life.

He ran away in the end. But his wife caught up with him. She's persuaded him that she owns him, that it was an unhinged act to try and escape from her, and he must give her an account of everything he does.

He drifts through life. Another friend said that if he was in a band, it would be called 'No Direction.'

I can well imagine why he is so passive. All a baby can do if something is wrong is cry for attention. Between birth and adoption, when he cried, no-one took any notice. So he just gave up.

Other people see him as infuriatingly childlike and weak. I can see myself in him. My passivity and tendency to drift are not quite as marked. But they do exist.

But perhaps we are wrong in putting this down to neglect when babies. When I looked at my adoption file, I found out that everything my adoptive mother had told me about my origins was wrong.

She said that when I was given to her, it was a condition of sale that I be brought up as an Anglican. She also thought it quite reasonable, as if I had no right to have a say in what supernatural beliefs, if any, I could have.

This was untrue. There was never any such requirement. She gave me the impression that my natural mother had been 15 when I was born, but she was 19. She or her other adopted daughter told me I was born in Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest, but it was St Thomas' Hospital - the old workhouse naturally.

So perhaps she had it wrong about the state of neglect I was supposedly in. After all, I had had a professional foster mother in the town where I was born.

I don't think she was lying but she might have been fantasising. Perhaps both she and my friend's mother subscribed to a trope which cast them in a saviour role, something for which we should have been grateful, although we were not.

Incidentally, my adoptive mother spoke about the state she found me in, in a very matter of fact, unemotional way. It didn't upset or disgust her. She didn't find it inappropriate.

She would say things like, ''A crying baby is exercising its lungs.'' It is, but only incidentally. Perhaps she saw new born babies as machines that weren't experiencing anything.

What would have been much worse would have been if my friend and I had been in institutionalised care for a long time. This happened to another adult adoptee I know. He would say anything for attention, probably because he hadn't been given enough attention when he really needed it.

He's told us that he's been on an Arctic expedition, he lost a hand in the Harrods bombing - but he still has two hands! -he is a playwright and an RAF pilot, he has a degree in sado-masochism, he is a hermaphrodite, has had terminal cancer for the last twenty years and he is the world expert on mushrooms. He really can mend computers but does nothing else except go to the pub.

This play for attention is self defeating. I say, ''Yes, and I fought at the battle of Waterloo'', and then drift away. He is driving people away from him.

Ceaucescu literally sowed the seeds of his own destruction. He and his wife thought Romania needed a population upsurge.

So they not only banned abortion and contraception. They mandated that every woman of childbearing age in Romania should be given a monthly medical check to determine if she was pregnant. Girls would swim rivers to a neighbouring country to avail themselves of abortion services.

For those who couldn't swim, the state would take the children off their hands. We hear of Romanian orphanages, but most of the inmates did have parents, just not parents who wanted them.

Of course, it was just these alienated and disaffected youths who left care in about 1989, just in time to overthrow Ceaucescu and kill him. It served him right.

But we can't give three cheers for the Romanian orphanage system or even one. They were awful.

A Welsh vicar and his wife who live near us, took a boy out of a Romanian orphanage. It was this young man who phoned an airport from his mobile phone the day after 9/11 to tell them there was a bomb on the premises.

Am I the only one who felt sorry for this 18 year old idiot when he was sentenced to a prison term? Of course he should not have done it, but like many children who had been in an abysmal care system, he was a fantasist.

He wasn't entirely responsible for his actions. He certainly has a thing about airports and planes because he keeps doing this sort of thing. Prison hasn't cured him.

I don't want to whinge too much about the primal wound. Other people have much worse problems.

I understand perfectly the feelings of the children of sperm donors who demanded the right to know who their fathers were. But my toes curled about one such support group who called themselves 'Bastard Nation.'

We all know about oppressed groups who reclaim terms of opprobrium, from 'The Old Contemptibles', to 'Niggaz with Attitude' to 'We're here; we're queer; we're not going shopping.'

My attitude which is subjective and may very well be wrong is, don't reclaim. You're just showing that people have got to you. Put offensive terminology behind you, and carry on regardless.

One shocking story did jolt me out of my complacency. In America, adoption files are still closed.

As a child the only thing I knew about where I came from is that I had been born in Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire. Similarly, my adopted sister knew she had been born in Hereford. We knew this because it said so on our revised birth certificates.

In America, adopted children don't even know where they were born. The birthplace can be falsified on the revised birth certificate.

In the 1980s, an adult adoptee in the USA was diagnosed with a terminal illness. There was just a chance he could live if he was given some kind of transplant or organ donation by a close relative.

He applied to the courts for information on his biological family. The judge expressed regret but said it was not permitted.

This was shocking. It was as if he was a slave. His adoptive parents owned him even as an adult. Did the USA have no concept of human rights in the 80s?

The poor man said that if he had been a convicted murderer on death row, he could have appealed against his sentence. 'But for the crime of illegitimacy, there is no reprieve.'

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2016 12:55 am    Post subject: gratitude Reply with quote

The Catholic Church and the Church of England are about to capitulate, and apologise about their role in forced adoptions in the UK. In some Mother and Baby homes, the inmates would go out to work during the day. They would wear wedding rings and be addressed as 'Mrs.'

After work ,they would be locked in. There was no privacy. The matron even came and stood in the bathroom while you had a bath.

The mothers were sent out while respectable married couples came to view the babies. If they saw one they liked, they would take it. When the mothers came back, they didn't know if they would find that their own baby was one of those who had gone for ever.

In a TV programme from those times which was repeated in the 90s, a clergyman attached to one of these places, said what an essential service they provided. Nobody need know the women's real identities. Mail could be redirected. They would be able to attend doctors' appointments.

His face took on a far away expression as he said Jesus never condoned illegitimacy. Jesus had nothing to say on the subject!

Why were these women, many of them teenagers in need of a refuge? It was the ethos of the day.

In the 80s, I saw a TV documentary which had first been shown in 1966. I watched with interest as that was the year of my birth.

It featured an interview with a grammar school girl of 16. She stated proudly, ''My father's a very moral man. He's always talking to me about morality.''

I thought that perhaps he was talking about the importance of not stealing or not murdering people. But she continued, ''He says that if I become pregnant, he'll throw me out of the house.''

A friend born in about 1950, constantly heard from her mother, ''If you do anything wrong, you'll be sent to a place where the walls are so high that you won't be able to see the sky! Your father won't be able to go to the office. He'll have to commit suicide!''

I must have picked up a negative attitude to the Church of England through doing Welsh history at O level. When I expressed these memes to my adoptive mother, she said seriously, ''It was the Church of England that made sure you had a good home!''

Under the junta in Argentina, the children of the disappeared were distributed among the social and political elites to be brought up. They were probably expected to be grateful too.

In Huckleberry Finn, people are genuinely incensed about their slaves' ingratitude in making a bid for freedom.

It's very doubtful that my adoptive mother had any pleasure out of taking me on. It was a mismatch. She might have had more joy out of my adopted sister.

She would not have felt guilty that the joy was bought at someone else's expense. She disliked one of my school friends. She justified this on the grounds of her 'immorality', by which she meant that the friend had begun experimenting with sex shortly after leaving school.

My adoptive mother had had a son who died at the age of two days. It was a case of rhesus blood group incompatibility. Doctors encouraged her to go on trying.

It was bad advice. The problem gets more virulent with each succeeding pregnancy, and in those days doctors had no effective treatments to offer. But they persuaded her that with certain treatments, she could have a healthy child.

The reproductive tragedies just happened at an earlier stage each time. It was hard for her to look at babies in the street.

Sometimes women who have suffered a reproductive tragedy, will become disturbed, and snatch a baby in the street. By encouraging my adoptive mother to apply for a baby that had been forcibly parted from its own mother, the state was sanctioning this kind of baby snatching.

My adoptive mother should have been offered counselling instead. In the year of my birth, Iris Minett who lost two children Maralyn and Carl in the Aberfan disaster, spoke to her doctor about the possibility of having another baby.

He said, ''But Iris, even if you can, it's not going to make up to you for the two you've lost.'' One child can't take another's place.

Sometimes, the lost child will be idolised, to the detriment of the living one. An emotionally volatile acquaintance told me that while his mother was beating seven shades of shit out of him, she would tell him how much she wished he had died instead of a baby she had lost.

My adoptive mother changed my first name and my adoptive sister's first name which she was not obliged to do. Perhaps I had a memory from infancy of being called Marianne.

We were watching a programme about Robin Hood. When his girlfriend came on, I breathed, ''Oh, Marian! That's a lovely name! I wish it was mine!''

My adoptive mother said, ''Your name's Valerie.'' I said, ''Well, it ought to be Marian!''

She was very annoyed when children shortened their friends' names. She thought it showed disrespect for their parents who had called them -say-David not Dave.

She didn't see any contradiction here. She thought she had a perfect right to obliterate the name my natural mother had given me.

I said, ''You call Dad Trev not Trevor.'' She said that was different. Everyone called him Trev.

In the 90s, children of Roma ethnicity were left stuck in Romanian orphanages. The racism against Gypsies in Romania was horrific.

Gypsy prostitutes even had to have German clients. 'Ordinary' Romanians won't even have casual sex with them.'

A British couple were prepared to take a Gypsy baby out of a Romanian orphanage where she was being treated very badly. They were even prepared to go to the lengths of buying her illegally when it turned out that inter-national adoption was not as easy as they had thought.

They ended up in big trouble, facing criminal sanctions, while the baby was taken back to the grim orphanage. I had mixed feelings. Buying and selling human flesh is wrong, but the baby would be even worse off now.

My adoptive mother had no doubts about the rights and wrongs of the situation. She said uncompromisingly, ''You've got no right to steal someone else's baby!''

Some people, taking a broad cultural overview, would say that she had done that very thing, not once but twice. But that was not how she saw it.

She would have said, ''That's different.'' It always is.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2016 7:44 pm    Post subject: force Reply with quote

The majority of adoptions during the 'Baby Scoop Generation' as Americans call it, were technically legal. The mothers had signed the consent forms, relinquishing the babies, in the knowledge that the arrangement was irrevocable.

But a website today questions the genuineness of the consent. If everyone tells you that this is something you must do, you will have no financial support otherwise, no one will want anything to do with you, the arrangement might be legal, but it will still be a forced adoption. Some moral welfare workers who spoke to Sue Elliot claimed that the young women had doctored their own memories.

Rather than admit they had voluntarily given their babies away, it was easier to say they had been taken. This takes no account of the emotional mind games that moral welfare workers played.

They would say, ''If you really loved your baby, you'd give it up.'' This is a perverse twist on reality. You would instinctively feel that if you loved your baby, you would want passionately to nurture it yourself.

Cheryl who counselled me said that a good number of birth mothers said they were so brow beaten and punch drunk that they had no memory of signing the consent forms, although they supposed they must have done it.It is a fair point to ask if a signature extorted under duress is legally valid at all?

Cheryl pointed out that St David's Diocesean Moral Welfare Society/ Adoption Society had wrung one signature only out of my natural mother in late January 1967. You would probably be asked for two signatures if you were going to buy a washing machine.

As a girl who had just had her 19th birthday, my mother would not have been able to sign a valid contract or to vote. So I wonder why this signature alone was considered valid?

Until the very end of the 60s, people in their late teens and early 20s were treated more like twelve year olds would be treated today. They were not even called minors but infants. You came of age not at 18 but 21.

The same organisation dealt with Jon Gower's adoption. His mother had been a 15 year old florist's assistant who had been raped by a farmer. Given the circumstances of his conception, she may genuinely not have wanted him
but the point is she would have had no choice.

Jon Gower wondered whose moral welfare the association was concerned with, and concluded it was that of society in general. He didn't think they were looking out for a 15 year old.

She was just told to come to a hospital in Carmarthen, deliver the baby and bugger off. Nobody thought about aftercare.

He was brought up in Llanelli, which was far enough from Carmarthen for his real mother not to see him around and guess who he was. It was the HQ in Carmarthen that dealt with my adoption too.

The signature was extracted from my mother in late January 1967. The adoption went through in Llanelli Town Hall on March 14.

The comedian Jim Bowen can come across as a bit thick. He is an adoptee who says adopted children always know how much they are wanted. They were chosen.

I've never known any other adoptee to subscribe to this trope. Natural mothers were told it was the act of a truly loving and unselfish mother to give her baby up. It was a lie.

Adopted children were generally not chosen but placed. The adoptive parents usually had to take what they were given. They wanted a child, not this individual child.

In any case nothing can make up to you for being unchosen by your first family. That can only make you feel worthless. For we all took for granted that we really had been relinquished voluntarily.

Just about all the adult adoptees I have met have been remarkable, extremely unusual people, very like themselves but very unlike anyone else.I know this goes for me too.

They are unusual in diverse ways, but one thing they will have in common is disconnection. They don't appear to belong anywhere.

One organisation set up to help adopted adults, asked ''Are you a spaceman?'' That's exactly what it feels like.

You know you must have had ancestors, but you feel as if you had dropped from Outer Space in the year of your birth. You don't feel at home anywhere. You always have 'one foot on the platform, the other foot on the train.'
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2016 9:27 pm    Post subject: apologia Reply with quote

I was reduced to tears by the film 'The Magdalene Sisters' which showed the sadistic abuse of young single mothers and other outcasts by Catholic nuns. I haven't been able to bring myself to watch 'Philomena Lee.'

Somebody who had, said that just as German citizens were forced to watch films of liberated concentration camps, the Pope, nuns and priests should be forced to watch this kind of drama. Martin Sixsmith thought himself a 'hardbitten' type, but he was never so shocked in his life as he was by some things he uncovered in Magdalene laundries.

For instance, two women slaved away alongside each other in one of these hell holes. They had been given false identities.

They did not know that they were mother and daughter. The nuns chose to lie to them about that. They had some specious rationalisation for this. But they must have been motivated by sadism and a love of abusing their power.

You can imagine how surprised I was when the Catholic Church in England and Wales chose to apologise for its part in running Mother and Baby homes in the UK. I'm so used to the Catholic Church covering things up, that I was quite disarmed.

My eldest son would say that 'Sorry doesn't make things better'. Maybe not, but it's much better than not apologising, or repeating the insult or injury as John Lowles MBE or Jac o' the North would do. I feel it's a breakthrough.

There can be no closure, no forgiveness until the offending organisation admits what happened and that it was wrong. The Catholic Church has even done better than the Salvation Army which has stopped short of an apology.

It took us a long time to reach this stage. Adult adoptees could choose to seek for their real parents from the mid 70s. But very little was heard about the birth mothers' stories until quite recently.

For a long time, society in general was not prepared to give them a sympathetic hearing. It really was felt that in having had at least one non marital bonk, they had done something disgraceful.

They deserved what happened to them. To put their heads above the parapet, and admit they were one of these proscribed creatures was out of the question.

After my mother finally married my father, they were staying with his mother, an Ulster Protestant who was not known for tolerance. She began holding forth to them on how much she hated the MP Bernadette Devlin. Devlin had openly and shamelessly borne a bastard daughter Roisin.

I don't suppose my mother took the opportunity to tell her about my existence. If she had blurted it out, and said, ''So that's what you think of me as well, is it?'', her mother-in-law would probably have said ''Yes!''

Social workers got it wrong in the 60s. They said that if you were parted from your child at birth, you wouldn't bond with it. They said that it was so 'good' for the natural parents that they weren't allowed to know what had happened to their child.

This would prevent them form thinking about it. Of course they did think about it, but were frustrated beyond measure at not knowing where it was or even if it was alive or dead.

Birth mothers were advised that what they were going through was like a dose of flu or measles. They should put it behind them, and not talk about it. This would typically lead to the symptoms of what is called suppressed mourning.

Some moral welfare workers said openly that the purpose of adoption was to punish people for having illegitimate babies. Nobody seemed to think that uttering such a thing proved that they were unfit to work with the public in any capacity.

Nobody would say, ''Why should punishment come into it? What harm have they done?'' Only a few years ago, people wrote to the papers to express sympathy with these women after the film 'The Magdalene Sisters' came out.

One maverick correspondent was a lecturer who said we shouldn't judge people of the time by the standards of today. He was always telling his students this. He also thought these institutions probably performed a useful service at the time.

Of course, he was wrong. The suffering was just as real as it would be today. It just made it worse that society thought it was well deserved. Some of the inmates, maybe most of them, shared the mores of the time, and blamed themselves.

But perhaps it is true that enlightenment can't be hurried. Empathy increases all the time but it is a gradual process.

A Val Bynner had to give up her son in her early 20s. She rejects the Church's apology. She says it is too little too late.

She is entitled to her point of view. Those of us who were bartered babies have suffered, but our suffering was muffled.

The experience of not knowing who you are is melancholy and frustrating but it is not without its compensations. It is not always unpleasurable.

However lumpen and unmysterious you are as a person, there is a mystery at the very core of your being, the mystery of your identity. It doesn't half make you feel important!

For the mothers, who were old enough to face the full cold realty with total knowledge, there is no such comfort. There's a lot to be said for the cushioning effect of uncomprehending infancy.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2016 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excuse me for putting it this way - I know that it is for you a sensitive matter - but most of us have the problem of deciding an identity whatever our circumstances : most of us simply make a virtue of those circumstances by ascribing meanings to them that ultimately can not be made to " stick " ... if our circumstances were to change then the meanings which we ascribe to them quickly change also ... sometimes we bring new meanings to parts of our lives long past as our conceptions of ourselves as older persons change e.g. recently it dawned on me that ... well actually that is rather personal ...

" However lumpen and unmysterious you are as a person, there is a mystery at the very core of your being, the mystery of your identity. It doesn't half make you feel important ! "

... What I am thinking about is how people in drawing their sense of identity from their present circumstances are accepting oppression and not thinking about how their circumstances could be different : mostly people not only accept that it is their lot to be oppressed but even boast about how important it makes them feel to be oppressed ... it is like those stories of how those wrongly convicted and languishing in jail for years are set free and promptly actually go and commit a crime in order to get back into their " home " - their " identity " ... and those brought up being told that their identity is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Communist, Fascist, Liberal etc are equally imprisoned despite the fact that they can simply walk away ...

... how about this then : is it not the case that somebody born elsewhere could learn to speak Welsh and know more about Welsh culture and history and end up being more meaningfully Welsh than somebody who is conventionally understood to be so ? ... My own experience of this is that I noted when I returned " home " to Rhondda I strongly felt an affinity for the people there because of having been strongly influenced by my Dad - but - I was never " of " the Rhondda in that sense and what has happened over the course of my lifetime is that this affinity is now but an echo which only still occurs with those of my age or older i.e. the divergence is very noticeable : even the experiences and dispositions of those of my age are much more different now and the Rhondda I knew is more or less gone - and my experiences and disposition are so much more different even from those of my friends that I am a truly " unique " ... or " original " ... or " odd " ... and whilst this may be interesting to a certain extent it is not pleasant : most people assess others in terms of how much they are like themselves ... which is the basis of Demockeratickal tribalism ...
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2016 9:00 pm    Post subject: existential being Reply with quote

Apparently, a lot of children go through a stage of feeling they have no connection with their parents and siblings. They may wonder if they were adopted.

They may even go off into the realms of fantasy, and persuade themselves - as a friend of ours did -that they are the rightful king of Mozambique, and try to persuade a solicitor to make out the case for them.

If you really are adopted, you are licensed to do this, and you may as well imagine something glamorous while you are about it. Somebody on the radio said his adopted brother was disappointed to find that his natural mother was a 'really grotty woman.'

He had been imagining a svelte glamour puss. It sounds as if his expectations were a bit immature.

One objection to international adoption is that you are depriving the child of its cultural identity. I do wonder how seriously we should take the objection.

Of course you can choose to identify with the Rhondda if you like, but why does it have to be an essential part of your identity? You can choose to be a cosmopolitan if you like.

Isn't it limiting to a child to say, 'This is who you are. These are the traditions we live by. This is how it has always been'?

You can end up like the father who says, ''You're not going to have a car. I never had a car, and neither did my father before me.'' Maybe, that's why they never got anywhere.

You could say it's a positive advantage not to know anything about your parentage while striving to find an identity. You needn't be limited. You don't need to hate the McCoys.

Age has obliterated my charms such as they were, but I once looked rather exotic for a British person. My dark hair and eyes and squashy features gave unobservant people the impression that I came from the Far East.

They would ask me seriously if I came from Malaysia or Tokyo. If I said I was Welsh, they said, ''I meant originally!'' I would then say that as I was adopted, I couldn't answer the question but I doubted that I had much Oriental blood, as I had had fair hair and grey eyes until I was five.

My husband often said, ''You look like a kami kazi pilot!'' or - labouring under the impression that my mother had been 15 when I was born - ''Your father must have been a Japanese general with paedophiliac tendencies!''

What is really bad is that an adult adoptee has no access to their family medical history. When doctors ask you if there is a history of glaucoma in your family, they are not motivated by idle curiosity.

When you know what your family story is, you can choose to embrace it, or conversely, not to let yourself be shackled by it. Very briefly, one of my real relatives believed I had dissed his family in assuming that they might have been ambitious or luxury loving or jealous or resentful or playful.

He felt the need to give me the party line in a stern epistle. They were apparently dour hard working puritanical types who were only interested in keeping their noses to the grind stone.

This sort of thing is the opposite of the family romance where you persuade yourself that you are the king of Mozambiqie. It is the family myth.

I call it a myth. That doesn't mean it's untrue.

Perhaps it is accurate or at least partly accurate. And there's nothing wrong with the work ethic as long as you remember it's not the be all and end all. But you can only live like this by suppressing other strong drives and impulses.

Psychologists like Robin Skynner would say that when keepers of the family flame insist, ''There's none of that in our family!'', it means that the family has big problems with expressing the thing in question, whether it be jealousy, joyfulness or anything else. In this case, the family may have had problems with expressing emotions per se.

I thought, ''Bloody hell! They sound like narrow minded stick-in-the-muds. Surely, my children and I can't really be descended from them? There must be some mistake!''

One of my first impulses was to write back a pert reply to this effect. There must be a mistake. Neither my children nor I could possibly be related to people like this, and I would be acting on that understanding in the future.

Common sense prevailed to the extent that I did not write any such thing. As I couldn't think of any polite response, I didn't reply at all, and the stand off has continued since March last year!

It does sound absurd. Perhaps it would not have been so bad had he not accused me of ascribing present day lack of morality - ie my own values - to decent people in the past.

I'm not quite sure what he had in mind, but I had not previously thought this character was in any position to lay down the law on morality. I was prepared to tolerate what I perceived to be his faults, but apparently it doesn't cut both ways.

It's a case where, to paraphrase Goering, when I hear the word morality, I reach for my gun! I could probably have avoided this stand off by being less forthcoming about my own ideas. But the moving hand has writ, and can't be called back. I am in a quandary.

So yes, perhaps it's not the worst thing in the word to escape a stultifying family tradition. Now I know about it, I only want to ditch it, to deny genetic determinism, and become something totally different!

I now feel quite nostalgic for the time that my speculations on my ancestors were limited only by my imagination, when I could waft around being dark and mysterious! Sometimes, ignorance is bliss!

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2016 10:22 pm    Post subject: the family china Reply with quote

I said I was now eager not to replicate the family tradition outlined above. But in a perverse way, I am doing just that.

I can only persuade myself that I am not bothered about the situation, and really don't give a toss, by suppressing my emotions. Whenever the subject comes to mind, I have to wave it away, telling myself, ''It's not important; don't think about it; think about something else!''

Counsellors wouldn't think this very healthy or wise. I have become emotionally numb. It's a necessary if costly coping mechanism.

And so the baton has been passed on after all. The person I had the ideological clash with, had a story about when he was a 17 year old naval recruit.

He and the other cadets were making a bit of noise in their barracks. This attracted the attention of the commanding officer.

To teach them a lesson, he ordered them out on a cross country run wearing gas masks. This made it very hard for them to breathe. In fact, it was torture.

Some of the boys took it to heart and committed suicide. This was recounted in a matter of fact way.

When I said, ''Surely, that wasn't necessary?'', the response came, ''Well it didn't happen again!'' Of course, that made it all worth while! What did it matter that a few over sensitive types had topped themselves?

This shows that teenage boys as well as teenage girls were tormented for fun by those in power over them. It was probably illegal. At the least, the officer was acting ultra vires.

The emotional deadness in the family has now descended to me. But it wasn't transmitted in the way that eye colour is transmitted.

I inherited it in the way you inherit the family silver or china. It was a personal gift form one person to another!
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2016 11:04 pm    Post subject: deadlock Reply with quote

A person more mean spirited and less numb than myself would feel all the more annoyed about the deadlock mentioned above, because my partner and I put no little effort into the search and reunion. We didn't get anywhere with computerised searches. We were constantly stymied by the Data Protection Act.

The documents we were shown were necessarily over thirty years out of date and were in largely illegible handwriting. They were stamped, 'We do not undertake nor do we intend to reveal the present whereabouts of any persons mentioned in these documents.'

We had to do all the detective work ourselves. We came up against stone walls and we also followed false leads. My real sister later asked, ''Once you applied, it was easy, wasn't it?''

''No!'', I laughed, ''It was difficult! It was very difficult! For a start, most people in this situation have their mother's surnames, and don't even know who their fathers are. And women's surnames are liable to change.''

Her eyes widened in realisation. Della obviously didn't get it.

She asked me, ''Did you tell your mother you were going to look for her before you did it?'' I said, ''How could I have told her before I did it? By telepathy?''

A lot of people give up in frustration. I nearly did. I know two people who gave up in disgust because they put their names on the Adoption Contact Register and had found that none of their blood relatives had put their names on it.

It is a matching service. It probably does more harm than good. Most people have never heard of it. None of my relatives had put their names on it either.

I would advise people not to give up at this point. You're not being snubbed. The chances that your relatives have heard of it are very low.

The fact is that the children involved are usually only secondary victims. Sometimes, their adoptive families were great. Although I had nothing in common with mine, my adoptive father was what my partner would call 'a sound bloke', conscientious and straightforward, if inclined to mis-speak.

The birth mothers - and sometimes the birth fathers - were the primary victims. It would be good to concentrate on their experiences.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2016 12:51 am    Post subject: inquiry Reply with quote

At least two solicitors, representing numerous clients, are about to petition Amber Rudd to allow an inquiry into the adoption practices of the 60s. British newspaper coverage includes pictures of mature women outside Parliament. They are holding placards which say 'Justice for Birth Mothers and their Children.'

It would be very easy for me to take up this invitation to wallow in unlovely self pity and make incoherent noises about how I am suffering from the primal wound. If you tell me I'm a victim, I'll behave like one.

Alternatively, I could get a grip, and think of the main victims ie the mothers. One of the solicitors said we are told that the women gave up their children voluntarily. 'Nothing could be further from the truth.'

Let's get a worm's eye view. Patricia Basquill, a Protestant from Northern Ireland committed the worst sin of all in her parents' eyes when she became pregnant with 'a Papist's bastard.'

She was sent to an Anglican Mother and Baby home in the North of England in late 1963. She told Sue Elliott, ' Every girl was in the last stages of pregnancy and the level of work was horrendous. Some girls were scrubbing floors literally on their hands and knees...It was a punishment. That was all you were good for.'

On Sundays, they had a day off, but were publicly humiliated. They were marched through the streets to church.

Everyone stared at them. 'The women were the worst because they never looked at your face; they just stared at your stomach.'

Patricia remembered that directly opposite her baby's crib was a large black edged Biblical text: ' When lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin' James 1.15.'

After a difficult birth, Patricia began to look through magazines for job offers in the hope of supporting her baby. She was 15 but that was the age that most people started work in those days.

All the staff tried to put her off. No one would employ her or give her accommodation. She put up quite a fight.

Patricia was in the nursery breast feeding her daughter Elaine who was looking in her face, laughing and gurgling. 'She knew exactly who I was.'

Patricia heard the door open. Someone went behind her and put their knee in her back. Somebody else grabbed Baby Elaine.

'Elaine had her fingers in my hair around my locket. The locket went with her, some of my hair went with her, and she just screamed. I was screaming. I was trying to fight back, and one of them got hold of my hair and jerked my head backwards and it really hurt. And they were gone.'

Patricia pushed the paperwork away. She said, ''I'm not signing. I want my baby back.'' The moral welfare worker came and put her face close to hers, and said, ''You need to understand something now.'

If she didn't sign, Elaine would be taken from the 'wonderful' Catholic couple with whom she had been matched, and put in a children's home. She would grow up as an orphan. Patricia would never see her again anyway.

'And that's when I signed.' It was incidentally a lie that Elaine had been given to a Catholic couple. They were Scottish Episcopalians.

If this story is at all accurate, it would be absurd to say that this mother gave her child away voluntarily.

She was compos mentis. She knew what she was doing. But she had no choice.

Considering she was at an age when you would have to be at school these days, it is quite remarkable she was able to put up as much resistance as she did. But it didn't matter how much backbone you had or how mature you were. You were helpless in the hands of powerful and ruthless oppressors.

Is this story a typical one? I suspect it is .

If other cases were less outwardly horrific and did not involve physical violence, it was only because most teenagers were comparative wimps. In those days, you often felt at that age that you had to do what you were told. Self assertion was not something the young were taught.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2016 11:15 am    Post subject: no ring on your finger Reply with quote

A little film on what are now agreed to have been the forced adoptions of the 60s, told us what a paradoxical decade it was. It showed us coverage of the Beatles and Twiggy.

The voice over said that the second wave of feminism was about to take off. But it added that it was a decade when some women were still silenced.

What it did not say is that they were generally silenced by other women. In preparation for investigating my own adoption I looked at literature by female moral welfare workers of the 60s.

It was awful. Even the literary style was bullying. It battered the reader into accepting that these young women were delinquents and mentally ill.

Paradoxically, if the mothers were cold or detached about their babies and apparently willing to give them away, that was taken as a sign of maturity. A woman who had bonded with her baby and was prepared to fight like a tigress to keep it, was seen as an unfit mother and obviously nuts.

I also read 'Searching For Oliver' by a Marianne Hancock, which curiously was the very name I had recently begun using. Marianne's parents allowed her to continue living at home after she became pregnant while still at school. But keeping the baby was out of the question.

She recounted that a hospital matron shouted at her about how she had disgraced her family, and said she wasn't sure she should allow her to book into the hospital to have her baby. The implication was that hospitals had no obligation to accommodate whores like her.

Marianne's friends gave her a beautiful layette of baby clothes. They said they knew the child was going to be adopted but they wanted it to have a good send off.

Immediately afterwards, she was standing at a bus stop when two middle aged women took in the situation at a glance. She had a bulging tummy and no ring on her left hand. ''Slut'', they muttered audibly.

The layette was now tainted by association. Marianne dropped it in a municipal bin. That was the autumn of 1966, the time that I made my own inauspicious appearance.

By the time that somewhere in the world, Marianne's son Oliver was enjoying his first birthday, Marianne herself was part of a hippy commune. It would be good to say that she found acceptance there. In fact she found the universal 'love' the commnards spoke about, empty and inauthentic.

A male doctor observed from her medical notes that she had had a child. When she explained the circumstances, he said, ''That must have been difficult for you.'' It was the first time anyone had expressed sympathy.

When Marianne did meet Oliver as an adult, she was glad, but she did perceive in him a certain disconcerting detachment.

She saw this as an innate and negative character trait. I suspect it was a symptom of the primal wound.

I was surprised she felt the need to snap at him to stand up straight, instead of slouching like a sloppy layabout. If you've moved heaven and earth to bring about a reunion, why behave like a sergeant major?

I think of the grown women who pushed these girls around with the contempt they deserve. But they were on a continuum with ordinary women. I can remember hearing ordinary women talking of acquaintances who weren't entitled to white wedding dresses!

In fact, I hate to say it, but I probably made a few unnecessary remarks of a similar nature when I was young and stupid.

Perhaps the tide was on the turn by 1983. In that year one of our school mates woke with such agonising back ache that her mother called out a doctor. He said, ''Get her into hospital straight away. She's going into labour!''

We were shocked in the sense of being surprised. But everyone rallied round and contributed money to buy a present for the baby.

One of my friends was indignant when the deputy headmistress swept in to her class room to return the money to them. A present was not what was required.

She had a long high pitched rant on the theme that 'Sian Trehearne has disgraced the school!' My friend said she wanted to hit her. To cap it all, the female class teacher put in, ''I wouldn't be a bit surprised if half the girls in this class weren't virgins either!''

Needless to say, 'Sian Trehearne' wasn't permitted to return to school. They couldn't stop her coming to sit the O levels though. The place functioned for those few days as an external examination centre.

Older women tried to pathologise these girls or treat them like criminals. But it was impossible to hold back the tide.

They were in the vanguard of a now universal trend. Nearly 50% of the babies born in the UK today are born to unmarried parents.

On the whole I see this in a positive light. Why make a fetish of marriage? Who wants to live in an institution?

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2016 10:07 am    Post subject: groan Reply with quote

The other day I had a phone call from an old friend. She had been rude and rejecting when I went to see her in the mental hospital where she had been detained for over a year.

After she was released, she phoned up and asked what church I now went to. I said I didn't go to church. It would not occur to me. My friends currently were atheists and Buddhists and Jews.

She gasped, ''Oh I could never deny Jesus!'' In her view, I was like Peter denying Jesus three times before the cock crew. That she had taken for granted that my partner and I shared her fundamentalist and evangelical beliefs, didn't show much perception on her part.

I couldn't tell her what I really thought of her religion. She would go to pieces.

I've often quoted her in this site just to illustrate silly views. I'd begun to think I was no longer a good friend of hers or I wouldn't do it. And she was certainly a liability as a friend to me. She could drop you in big trouble, not always intentionally.

She had a niece born in Australia. Although she said that Australian law made no distinction between marital and non marital children, she never referred to her niece by name. She invariably referred to her as 'my illegitimate niece', although she had no other niece to distinguish her from.

She would also refer to her half sister without fail as 'my sister who was born on the wrong side of the blanket', a phrase I am only familiar with from novels written in an earlier era. Otherwise, I don't think I'd know what it meant.

She had an adopted cousin whom her aunt and uncle had taken out of a Catholic Crusade of Rescue home. She said charmingly, ''I suppose she must be illegitimate like you!'' As my friend had a very literal mind, she refused to acknowledge the other woman as her cousin.

This led to an argument. My friend said magnanimously, ''Well, you're not my cousin, but I never said you couldn't call my father Uncle John!''

Oddly enough, my friend's extended family was quite wound up. When a family funeral was in the offing, the undertaker phoned her at their request to ask her not to attend. She took great offence.

I thought the problem might be that she obviously believed that if her relatives had been conceived in circumstances that she considered inappropriate, they should never be allowed to forget it.

I tried to persuade her that it was neither necessary nor desirable to use this kind of terminology. People didn't generally talk like that these days. It was extremely passe.

She couldn't see what the problem was. In her view, she was just making factual statements. She said that after all, she had only just been born in wedlock. Her parents' divorce came through a week after her birth.

I discussed with a mutual friend how irritating her family must find this. It would be like constantly being jabbed with a pin which is harder to put up with than a broken leg.

He agreed that she was just airing an 'ancient prejudice.' It would be hard to talk her out of it, considering that she did have old fashioned attitudes about matrimony.

She did sometimes have non marital sex herself but she was not entirely happy about it. She thought it was not appropriate if 'you're a church goer.'

The educated mutual friend then surprised me by saying that he didn't think that illegitimacy was associated with low intelligence. I laughed in surprise that I didn't think so, either. How could it be, considering that it is an entirely artificial concept?

I was astonished at this remark. Is there any persecuted minority who has not been suspected at some time or other of being subnormal?

I have to say I know exactly how her family feel. When I read in my adoption file, 'Marianne X is the illegitimate daughter of Miss Thing aged 19', I thought, ''Oh, feck off!'' My partner said it was a legal term, not a personal insult, but I think he had missed the point.

My friend is not just tactless. I've heard her rant about 16 year olds getting pregnant in order to get council houses. It is a myth that councils give houses to pregnant minors, but I didn't know that then.

She was belly aching about the 'dishonesty' of it. I said I didn't see any dishonesty. If the council offers you a house in certain circumstances, and you fulfill the conditions, where is the dishonesty?

It is no more dishonest than buying a lottery ticket, and then going to collect your winnings if your number comes up. Maybe, this kind of intolerant moaning is a hardy perennial.

For some reason, a woman in the Question Time audience started ranting about a named individual she considered unworthy. This person now had a baby and had been housed in a publicly owned property. What did the panel think of that?

Roy Hattersley snapped, ''Well, what would you prefer? Do you think they should be camping in a shop doorway?''

My friend was very upset about an incident in the past. She had been attending a church in Newport. In the congregation was a woman she invariably referred to as 'an unmarried mother.'

My friend denounced the unmarried mother, and tried to turn everyone in the church against her. I'm not sure that she denounced her for being an unmarried mother, but she didn't say that she had anything else against her.

The denunciation backfired. My friend was ostracised.

At least, she didn't feel she would ever be welcome in the church again. She felt extremely hard done by about this.

I had thought I might have shaken her off. I'd been feeling bad about human relationships in my life that had ended badly. I had been thinking wistfully that it would be good to revive some of them.

Be careful what you wish for! A phone call came out of the blue. My friend was upset because her uncle had died, he who had adopted a girl from a Catholic Rescue home, whom my friend refused to acknowledge as her cousin.

So she wanted me to go round and listen to her letting out her thoughts on the subject. I initially said I would but I haven't heard from her since, and I may basely give it a miss.

Nothing I said ever seemed to do any good anyway. I used to have a quite high tolerance level for nonsense, in the vain belief that it is possible to help people.

Now, I feel I've paid my debt to society. I can't take this level of folly and insensitivity any longer.

Last edited by marianneh on Tue Aug 15, 2017 8:22 am; edited 5 times in total
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2016 11:49 am    Post subject: infanticide Reply with quote

Newspapers are now reporting that for three decades after the Second World War, we had a blanket policy of mass adoption by strangers as a 'solution' to 'illegitimate' births. So, what had it been like before?

During the war, it was often thought better to keep mothers and babies together. Social workers said, 'Mothers, even unmarried mothers, love their babies and are ennobled by that mother love in their hearts.' A woman pregnant by a serving soldier could claim an allowance as 'his unmarried wife.'

In some rural areas, children of the bush and brake were tolerated or informally adopted by their grandparents. It would usually come as a horrendous shock when a child found out that their grown up sister or auntie was really their mother.

Rural Wales was supposed to be traditionally tolerant. But I heard of a woman who was parted from her baby and ended up destitute, homeless and living as a bag lady in a Welsh village for the crime of having a child without a discernible father as late as the 60s.

Most people wouldn't acknowledge her existence. It wasn't clear what had happened to the baby.

Apparently, as late as the time of the Second World War, infant mortality for non marital babies was twice as high as for those born to married couples. I heard a story of a prostitute resorting to strangling her baby as soon as it was born in the 40s.

In 2002, the new owners of St Olaf's Cottage on Orkney were renovating the old croft house. They found the bodies of three new born babies that had been secretly buried there between 70 and 80 years previously. It was established that they did not die natural deaths.

Apparently, one of the former occupants, Violet Gray, had had a bye line as a prostitute. No one seems to have been in any doubt about her profession.

Yet it would have still created a scandal had she been known to have become pregnant as a result of it. We may never know the details for sure.

But it is now thought that her mother Tamina Gray drowned her grandchildren in a bucket the moment they were born, just as people used to dispose of kittens. Tamina would 'never have allowed her grandchildren to draw a first breath.'

For some reason, she was prevented from drowning a fourth child immediately, and lost her nerve. This boy was able to grow up.

But Gordon Gray, known locally as 'the peedie boy', had a terrible struggle with depression and self esteem. He didn't feel good about himself.

I can't say how creeped out I am by this story! It's like a goose walking over my grave.

Black and white pictures of the extended Gray family from the early twentieth century are so disturbingly evocative. These people may have been Orcadians with more Norse than Celtic provenance.

But they wouldn't look out of place in Upper Cwm Twch. You could almost say, ''That's Uncle Emyr and that's Auntie Dilys!'' And this is how they behaved!

Thank goodness, we are more civilized now! Or should I say, we have let our moral standards slip?
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2016 9:12 pm    Post subject: the farmer's arms Reply with quote

Infanticide did not always prevent scandal. It could make things worse if discovered. We only have to think of Mary Morgan of Presteigne or Hetty Sorrel in the novel 'Adam Bede', the latter story based on the execution of one Mary Voce in 1802.

In Scotland, at one time, it was a capital offence even to conceal a pregnancy. The plot of Walter Scott's novel 'The Heart of Midlothian' may be based partly on this.

In England at one time, a presumption of guilt was made, contrary to the presumption of innocence in all other crimes, if a baby's body was found dead after its birth had been concealed. Its mother would only get away with her life if it was proved that its lungs had never inflated. In that case it would be judged to have been still born.

These draconian measures caused even more misery and violent if lawful deaths.

They could do no good while unmarried mothers were treated like lepers, women were paid peanuts for most kinds of work, and under the Bastardy Law Amendment Act of 1872, a 'putative' father could be charged no more than five shillings in weekly support, an amount unchanged in 1900.

In that year dead new born babies were still a common sight, left out on the streets of London. It wasn't always the mothers who were responsible.

Often, destitute young mothers would give their babies to older women who offered to arrange for them to be adopted. The baby farmers might have a horde of babies in their houses.

Often, the easiest way to make a profit was to accept a handling fee and then eliminate the babies. At least two baby farmer were hanged for this at the turn of the twentieth century.

The carnage of the First World War encouraged people to place more value on human life in reaction. Voluntary organisations urged the rich to 'help to save and rear the babies we want so badly.'

Adoption was a private arrangement. Often a document was made out that looked like a contract of indenture. The contracting parties may have believed it to be legally binding but it was not.

In one sense, a non marital child was a 'filius nullus' which had no claims on its parents' estate. But the parents had some rights. They could remove a child from adopters at any time.

This was felt to be unfair. In 1926, formal adoption was recognised as legally binding in England and Wales. The idea was that 'in all illegitimacy cases, the child's life should start again 'de novo.'

Under a Scottish act of 1930, an adoptee could apply for information about their real parents on reaching the age of 17. But in England and Wales, not even the adopted child could find out who their real parents were.

Of course it was comparatively humane. It was more humane than a baby having its throat cut in hugger mugger, followed by its young mother being hanged in front of an excited crowd

But slowly, sensitivity has increased. We can see now that an act can be cruel without leaving blood stained bedding, and corpses strewn all over the landscape.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2016 10:33 pm    Post subject: the flower of a blameless life Reply with quote

It doesn't look entirely fair that women were shamed for heterosexual shenanigans, but young men could get away with anything as long as they weren't gay. This may partly have been because before DNA tests, it was impossible to prove paternity. It could only be disproved if blood groups were incompatible.

I don't think this is the main reason. James Boswell told a female acquaintance solemnly that adultery was more serious in a woman than in a man. It could lead to property descending to the wrong bloodline.

She retorted that in that case, it was a little bagatelle for a woman to be unfaithful during pregnancy when conception is impossible. This was a bit of a poser.

He wrote, ''I knew she was wrong'', but admitted that he couldn't say why. Perhaps it was not about cuckoos in the nest au fond. It was an instinctive feeling that sexual 'purity' was the clinching virtue in a woman, but was ridiculous in a man.

Samuel Richardson's novel 'Pamela or Virtue Rewarded' was all about how a maidservant repels what looks today like sexual harassment from an employer, and is finally found worthy to be his wife. Henry Fielding wrote a spoof novel on this, 'Joseph Andrews.'

Joseph is Pamela's brother. He too preserves his purity although he is given plenty of opportunity to lose his precious innocence. I'm not sure what point Fielding was making.

Was he lampooning the double standard? Or did he just think it was an amusing bit of slapstick to have a young man with the sap rising, running away from sex in his anxiety to preserve his most precious gift?

Maybe, parents traditionally gave boys mixed messages, ''Don't do it, but we expect you to, and we'll be concerned if you don't.'' Who wants a son with a reputation as an unsullied virgin?

Albert the Prince Consort really did expect his sons to be pure. When he heard that his eldest son Albert Edward Prince of Wales aka Bertie and later Edward vii had lost his virginity to an 'actress' Nellie Clifden at the Curragh Camp near Dublin, he could not contain his emotions.

Bertie was nearly 20, and it was sure to happen sooner or later. That's not how Albert saw it.

In an overwrought letter, he asked Bertie how he could 'thrust yourself into the hands of one of the most abject of the human species, to be by her initiated into the sacred mysteries of creation, which ought to remain shrouded in holy awe until touched by pure and undefiled hands.'

He continued, ' At your age, the sexual passions begin to move in young men & lead them to seek explanation to relieve a state of vague suspense & desire. Why did you not open yourself to your father? I would have reminded you of how these desires are to be gratified by the Holy Estate of Matrimony.'

He ruminated that Nellie might have a child or get a child and say it was his. 'If you were to deny it, she can drag you into a Court of Law to force you to own it and there with you (the Prince of Wales) in the witness box, she will be able to give before a greedy Multitude disgusting details of your profligacy for the sake of convincing the Jury, yourself cross examined by a railing indecent attorney and hooted and yelled at by a Lawless Mob!! Oh, horrible prospect, which this person has in her power any day to realise and to break your poor parents' hearts!'

The crescendo looks like self parody but was meant entirely seriously. Historians and biographers have concluded that Prince Albert was 'unbalanced on the subject of sex.'

A N Wilson said he could not have taken it worse had Bertie cut up his brothers and sisters and scattered their bodies in the pond at Buckingham Palace. It got much worse.

Albert met him at Cambridge to thrash the whole thing out. They got lost in the rain.

Albert gave him cautious forgiveness while reminding him that he must hide himself from the sight of God. Albert caught a sniffle and was dead within weeks.

Queen Victoria had no doubt that Bertie was responsible. The news of his fall had broken 'my angel's heart.'

Just before his arranged marriage to Princess Alexandra of Denmark, she wrote to her 'Poor Boy' who ' alas! cannot as as beloved Papa and good Fritz [of Prussia, his sister Vicky's husband] bring 'the white flower of a blameless life' to the altar! but alas! must feel when that pure innocent girl looks at you with her fine eyes, feel ashamed at your unworthiness - oh! those wicked ones who 'robbed you of your virtue' as beloved Papa said. Oh! that sad stain which grieved your beloved Papa so sorely, so bitterly...let it not be blotted out from your own conscience but let it be your constant admonition to make up, by a future spotless life, for that which alas! can never be undone.'

If this sounds ridiculous, it is because it is ridiculous. And yet this is how the average parent would have reacted had it been a girl, well into the twentieth century. It seems to me that it was equally ludicrous in these cases.

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