Not everyone in Ireland bent the knee to the prevailing culture of punishing the children of the poor and their Mums. There were some who reached out to protect children. An Irish Traveller family sheltered and fed me after I absconded from one Institution. I received more food from them in the short few hours I was with them than I’d received from the nuns for a whole week – and the Travellers food was fresh and plenty of it.
Then there was the family in Dublin who took me in for a magical Christmas (late 50s/Early 60s) – even though they’d just become parents themselves, they’d actually opened their home to a child from the Institutions!
That was some Christmas – it even snowed! I’ve tried to recreate that Christmas for our own children every Christmas. Nothing fancy. Good Food, warmth, a few presents, sing-songs, games and importantly: A Sense of Belonging. Could never recreate the snow though!
And a family in Wexford who took me in for a Glorious Summer in 1960. There were trips on trains to the seaside, sandcastles, buns, lemonade, a visit to the cinema, good food – especially tomatoes! And A Sense of Belonging. And after I was returned to the Institution the family and friends I made in Wexford collected comics and sent them to me in the Institution.
All Memories to Cherish and I Do Cherish them.
If any full history of Ireland’s treatment of children in Institution is ever written these good people should have a place of honour in it. They brought Warmth and Love and a Sense of Belonging.