A stolen past, a search for the truth, two lives changed forever.
Born out of wedlock in Dublin in 1937, Phyllis grew up in a brutal, church-run orphanage. She thought by fulfilling her dream to become a nurse in England, her life might change for the better. But her loveless childhood predisposed a loveless marriage. Her feelings of being worthless, instilled by the orphanage, perpetuated a series of poor choices and things spiralled out of control for her – and, shockingly, for her daughter, Sally.
As her mother’s health deteriorated, Sally began looking for answers to why it seemed inevitable that their lives would go so spectacularly wrong. She asked questions about the true identity of her mother: “Who was she? Why was she abandoned? I needed to find answers before it was too late.” After a mission that lasted nearly a decade, searching archives and contacting countless organisations and anyone who would listen, Sally finally uncovered the truth and opened the door to a world so many of us take for granted.
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A 5 star read. Sally Herbert's mum had been abandoned as a baby, and was brought up in an orphanage. The author is middle aged and now is time to find out more about her roots. Sally had got interested in genealogy, and started to trace her family history. A family story with many twists and turns; hardship. Although I've read a few true stories with similar subject matter, this wasn't all the same again, it was unpredictable, and very interesting and intriguing. An excellent book with so many threads to it- not just the trying to trace her mum’s birth mother etc. An emotional journey, very well-written, and an absorbing read.
This book is dedicated to all those brought up in institutions and long to know who their families are. It is based on both Sally’s frustrating experiences trying to track down the missing maternal grandmother, and her conversations with her ailing but resilient mother Phyllis. The obfuscation by Church, and State of Ireland prolongs the sadness, cruelty and tragedy, records have gone amiss. Birth certificates, dates of admission and names have been changed, seemingly, to protect the families of unmarried mothers. Phyllis is born into the Bethany Home in Dublin in 1937. Her brother is collected by the mother a year later but Phyllis is left behind and shifted to another Dublin orphanage in 1940. She was frequently visited by a mysterious Auntie Bea who showed her kindness, affection and generosity. Phyllis has no idea what her connection with Auntie Bea is, and is not confident enough to ask questions. After incidents of ill treatment and abuse at the orphanage become apparent Auntie Bea asks Phyllis if she would like to come and live with her instead. Here, I was shocked at young Phyllis’s “safe” decision, which was a fine example of ingrained self-worthlessness, confounded by ego belittling by the sanctimonious and cruel carers. Fear runs like a river throughout the orphan’s lives. Phyllis is released from the orphanage when she turns16. She is assigned to work as a children’s nurse, but hasn’t been taught any worldly life skills such as independent decision making and budgeting which affects, or rather afflicts everything that happens in her adult life. For 60 years Phyllis believes that she is unloved, unwanted and has no other family. With new DNA technology Sally finally makes a breakthrough, without this Phyllis would have died no wiser to the circumstances surrounding her fate. “Suffer Little Children to Come Unto Me” is part of a phrase from the Christian Bible that was deliberately misquoted as a justification for the ill treatment inflicted upon these poor young souls in the name of religious betterment. It’s hard to say I enjoyed this book, but it’s a well written compelling story which inspired me to look into some history around these barbaric institutions. Phyllis’s shattered life is but one of thousands, unmarried mothers included, who are displaced, bereft and adrift because of destroyed, concealed or hidden documentation. Hail Sally for all her hard work, passion and patience in searching for her beloved mother’s family. This memoir is written with warmth and humour, and I would recommend it to anyone trying to solve a genealogy mystery. Thanks to NetGalley and Ad Lib Publishers for sending me an ARC in exchange for an independent review.