In the picture below are a mining family. My Grandmother – wife of a Miner. My mother – wife of a Miner, mother of 14. My big sister. My big brother – dead but never forgotten and me.
ENEMIES OF THE STATE
My mother is now dead 31 and a half years – she is buried in a graveyard in Moneenroe in Castlecomer in county Kilkenny. One of her headstone states that Mary O’Connor (aged 48) lies here. In another part of the same graveyard there is an empty space amongst a row of headstones and that is also where where my mother is buried – according to her brother!
I have very few memories of my mother, and the last time I was with her was 1955 or maybe 1956 when she left Ireland, my father and us – her children, and went to England and re-married and had 10 more children. On occasion she returned to Moneenroe to her mother and brother but these visits were furtive as she was subject to arrest for bigamy, and breaking a solemn pledge.
For, you see, my mother was once in a Magdalen Asylum.
And the story I’ve heard: In this Magdalen Asylum she gave birth to my older brother (Bunty) and to get out of the Magdalen Asylum she had to pledge to marry my father, also a sum of money had to be paid. My father was NOT the father of Bunty, and my father was 15 years older than my mother – also both of them were close blood relatives and special permission had be applied for in order for the marriage to go ahead. Her mother also paid £100 to the nuns in the Magdalen Asylum to further secure her release.
So my mother was released into a forced marriage, to a man years older than her and a very close relative to boot and £100 was paid to for the privilege. My mother produced 3 more children (my older sister, myself and my younger brother) in a very short time. But such an “arrangement” was bound to fail and my mother did leave us and went to England where she had some kind of a life. Of her 10 children one of them became a Cancer specialist – so it seems her mothering skills were put to good use. Of course the 3 children of the marriage were all incarcerated into various detention centres, but Bunty who was born in the Magdalen Asylum was not touched as our mother’s family prevented it and he continued to live with his Granny.
During my time in those places the only information I received from the nuns about my mother was that she was dead – basically that I was an orphan – and that my mother was evil, a tramp and no good to anyone. That she was a wicked woman who was burning in the fires of hell where she would remain for eternity – and at times the same nuns liked to point me out to the other children and label me as a spawn of the devil.
Yes that’s what Irish nuns used to tell children about their mothers.
Although my mother was buried in August 1980 she died a long long time before that – for you see I BELIEVED the nuns – she was dead to me when I was in those places. The tragedy, to me, is that this denigration and belittlement of my mother by the nuns prevented me from ever seeking her or her family out until it was too late. They made me feel ashamed of my mother and this shame (and loathing) has haunted me. So when people talk about ‘forgiveness’ and ‘moving on’ they are really asking us, asking me, to forget.
I will not forget and I will not forgive.
Happy Mother’s Day