A Life Worth Living; Chapter One
Why Share My Story
Fifty years ago, the NSPCC, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Social services, the Doctor and the Police, were frequent visitors to our house as my mother was an alcoholic, who often did not come home at night. She was reported to the NSPCC for neglect on more than one occasion and I was still left in her care. Not one of those agencies or individuals saw the signs that I was an abused child.
This Is Me
I was born in 1960, in a small coal mining village, Worsbrough Bridge, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England. Born premature and not expected to survive, I was baptised and last rites were administered within hours of my birth. My first day of life was a battle to survive, and there were more battles for survival to come in my life.
All my early memories are of being physically and emotionally abused by my parents. I was physically and emotionally abused by my mother since birth, and I was sexually abused by dad, neighbours and strangers from a very early age..
I know I was the runt of the family because my mother told me so. People expect the runt to die don't they? Against all the odds, I did not die. Despite pneumonia and gastroenteritis in the first few weeks of life, and despite Mam's and dads constant abuse, I was strong and had the will to live. I survived. I would like to say fortunately I survived, but I would be lying. Life was a living hell to be endured and many times I could not see the point of my constant battle to survive.
As a young child, I was given the label, ‘Backward’, which means, retarded in learning ability. My mother told everyone that I had been stupid, simple and backward since birth. Social services have it on record that my mother told them I was a simple child and often had accidents.
An investigation into a serious head injury I sustained at the age of eighteen months was reported as being a result of my own clumsy behaviour. The truth was, my mother caused the injury by hitting me over the head with a garden spade, splitting my tiny head open and leaving a hole in my head. She left me bleeding and a neighbour found me unconscious on the kitchen floor. As I was regarded as stupid and backward, no body ever asked me what happened. I was abused under the noses of those meant to protect me.
The picture below is taken on the beach, outside the hospital where I spent months recovering from the head injury. I was returned to my parents care after being released from hospital. I was terrified of them both.
Me With Dad And Mam Outside The Hospital
My Mam, Mary, came to live in England from Dundalk, Ireland, at the age of 22, in 1957. She was described as a petite, attractive and talented girl with a beautiful singing voice.
One of eight children, six boys and two girls, Mam was the youngest. My uncle said, of him and his brothers, 'We spoilt Mary. We could not help but give her what she wanted when she was growing up because she was such a lovely lass'.
My Mam and her family were devout practising Catholics and mam taught me well about her punishing God. She would often tell me that I would go to hell and that God was watching my every move. I believed her. I feared God almost as much as I feared my mother and even as a small child I was terrified that God could strike me dead at any moment if I dared so much as have a wrong thought. I vividly remember those early years and the constant fear I felt of my mother and of the wrath of God.
My mother's emotional abuse from birth left me the beliefs that I was unloved, unlovable, ugly, stupid, worthless and unwanted.
Joe, my dad, born in Barnsley, was a coal miner from the time he left school at a time when coal mining was a supremely important industry. It was a stressful backbreaking job, a hard life for the men that did mining. Working the coal mines was a difficult and often frightening life for the miners and their wives. Explosive gases released from working the coal, carried a risk of explosions underground and possible death for the workers.
Miners, which included dad were also at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and in the early sixties, many miners did lose their lives as the result of carbon monoxide gas poisoning. I remember dad tell of canaries that were kept down the pits to warn the miners of carbon monoxide gas. The canary being a bright yellow bird could be seen from a distance. If the bird was sat on its perch, then there was no gas present and all was well. If the bird could not be seen sat on its perch, the men would know there was gas present in the air. They would have time to retreat to safety. Dad hated working down the pit and was always anxious, fearing a disaster. He was also terrified of the pit pony that he had to work with.
Dad worked with a pony which were used down the pit to drag the wagons of coal. One day, dad, hoping to get finished a bit earlier so he could eat lunch, hooked up more than the usual wagon load to the back of the pony. The donkey, being well trained in how much load it was expected to pull, was not happy. It turned around and tried to bite dad, to let him know he was taking no nonsense, or extra loads. Dad tried again to hook an additional load to the back of the pony and signalled for the to move forward. This time the pony spun around, unhooked its loads with its teeth, flatten its ears back and charged at my dad. Dad told so terrified of the pony that when the pony had dad pinned to the ground and was nipping him, he was screaming for his mother. That story made me laugh.
Dad was six foot tall and a big stocky broad shouldered man. He towered over my Mam who was a petite five feet tall and seemed tiny in comparison. Like mam, he was described as being attractive, tall dark and handsome and he took pride in his appearance. Even if he was not going out of the house, dad would have his tie on. Once I caught him outside on his way to a shop with his jacket and tie on but no shirt. When I asked him why, he said, 'Mi shirts not ironed'. As a young man he would spend hours in front of the mirror, preening and slicking back his black wavy hair with Brillcream.
I have few memories of dad actually being in our house when I was a child but when he was home, he was usually drinking and braying my Mam.
When dad was at home, he ruled the house and I was terrified of him. I look back and know that dad took on the traditional role of breadwinner and king of his castle. He was the man of the house and the wife should be in the kitchen attitude of the culture he was born into.
My mother was like my dads maid. Dad expected my mother to fetch and carry for him, bathe him when he came in from work, do as she was told and not back chat him, keep house clean as well as raise us kids. He expected dinner on the table when he got in from work and Mam used to oblige him and have it ready. If she did step out of line, she would be severely beaten by dad.
Dad would often beat my Mam and I witnessed it. I thought all that was normal. Every week, sometimes a couple of times a week, my older sister, or myself, would run to the bottom of the street to the police station. The police in the station, which just so happened to be at the end of our street, knew my family and me well. ‘Is it your dad again love?’ The kind police officer would ask. ‘He’s killing me mam’, I would tell him. The police would come to the house and calm things down. They would take dad to his mothers house, my Nan’s, who lived just up the street from us and give him a warning to stay away from my Mam for a bit.
I have flash backs of my mothers blackened eyes and bruising on her face. She was a battered wife. She was often black and blue around her face and eyes. I have no memories of my mother ever smiling. She was always cleaning, scrubbing the floor, washing or staring into the fire in a daze as she cooked dinner. She barely looked at me other than to tell me to get out of her way.
All those given responsibility of supporting dysfunctional families like mine, were involved with my family. Yet, like so many children today, 60 years ago, I was abused right under the noses of those meant to protect me. The rest of my siblings were not abused by my mother.
Mam and dad would spend all their spare time in the pub leaving me at home. They were rarely at home taking care of the children. They were often drunk when they did come home and many times they had not come back at all. The National Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Children (NSPCC) would step in until mam sobered up and the NSPCC would be gone leaving me in a place of constant danger where I lived in fear.
Dad would turn up sometimes when I had been left alone and would sexually abuse me and then leave me. Being left alone by my parents even at an early age was a common occurrence and everybody knew it. Still, there was no one there to help me.
I grew up believing that when I was grown, my role would also be that of home maker and to be subservient to the men around me. I thought it my role to take care of a man putting his needs above all others. I believed that it was okay for a husband to beat his wife.
I developed negative beliefs about myself through the derogatory names I was called and through being constantly told that I was stupid, ugly, dirty, unlovable and unworthy of love or care.
Please leave comments in the comment box below.
- A Life Worth Living; Chapter Five
Rescued from my violent home life I was put into care and introduced to Jane and David. They cared for me and I felt loved but I was sent home to my abusive mother.
- A Life Worth Living; Chapter Four
Abused by my mother, I was locked in my room with ghosts coming out of the walls.
- A Life Worth Living; Chapter Three
Life is meant to be lived, not endured. This is my childhood which is like many children's lives today. My start in life was about survival of daily abuse and neglect. This is my life and why I am who I am.
- A Life Worth Living; Chapter Two.
I was born in a nineteenth century, dirty, soot covered terrace. Ours was not a happy home and life was harsh. Worn out looking women scrubbed their front steps as if their life depended on being seen scrubbing. I lived in fear of my mother.