My late beloved Dad was born to an unmarried 17-year-old mother in Granard in October in 1916, and when he was 8, his mother, together with his stepfather, stepbrothers and stepsisters, emigrated to Australia, leaving Dad with his grandmother, who died when he was 10. Then he was taken in by his uncle, but his uncle was killed when Dad was 12.
Dad only told me the story when he turned 80. His mother, dad said, was denounced from the pulpit in Granard for having a child out of wedlock. He always maintained that Granard was the town in the book The Valley of the Squinting Windows.
All his life he carried the stigma of being a ‘ bastard’ (his term) and when he told me his story I asked him why he did not tell me before. He was so ashamed and feared that I, like his mother, would abandon him — fat chance.
As Dadda knew his mother’s maiden, and married names, I contacted a genealogist in Sydney, and in 2004, before he died, I found his step-siblings there. Dad was disabled and it was wonderful when he spoke by phone with his brother, in Australia.
My beloved Dadda never knew the love or embrace of a mother. He loathed Granard, after the story of Anne Lovett and her little baby at the grotto. The parish priest of Granard appealed to ‘outsiders’ to leave the people of Granard alone, but no apology to the children who, with the blessing of the Church, were deprived of knowing a mother’s love. When I told Dadda that I had found his mother’s family in Australia, he asked me, with tears in his eyes, aged 90 ‘Did she love me?’. He went to his grave thinking that he was a ‘bastard’, but he was surrounded by the love of his family.
I, as a devoted son, felt that his story, like tens of thousands, should be known, and maybe, just maybe, the Church should remove the stigma and acknowledge the hurt of shame that these people carry.