The photo on the front cover of my book “Lily & Me”was taken circa 1950. I’m in the centre, my brother Tommy on left my Father on right. We were sitting on the railing on the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
When we arrived in Gasper, the home of Lily’s inlaws and Roy’s grandparents my misery started. Lily’s mother in law and the two daughters fussed over their new grandson. I think if I’d been a girl, I would have likened myself to Cinderella! No one acknowledged that I existed, no one used my name. I was always referred to as the Boy! At my new school the teacher ask me to tell her about myself. I was ripe to spill my unhappy tale and told all. The adoption, my father in Belfast, my brothers and sisters, that Lily was not my mother but a sister. Gasper is a small place and gossip travels fast around the area. Lily was furious with me, and slapped my hard across the backs of my bare legs. This was the start of her physical abuse, it went from legs to ears and any other parts of me that was within reach. I don’t want to get into the many details, its all in my book if anyone is interested. I never mentioned the sexual interference that her husband perpetrated on me when I was eight years old. I didn’t write about if in my book, no sure why, possible my own sense of guilt or shame. Perhaps had I described it in detail it might have felt like an attempt at revenge on my part.
We ended up living on the Isle of Wight in 1949, this was probably the most pleasant time of my childhood. Nevertheless, I remained far from content. In 1951 I was almost twelve years old and starting at the local Secondary Modern School, I was excited because this would be the first time I’d wear a school uniform. Unfortunately I still had to wear short trousers until I turned twelve. but that was only a few months. For the last three years I’d attended the village elementary school, and assumed this was where Roy would go. He didn’t, Lily enrolled him in a posh school in Newport. On the first day of school Roy stood in his brand new school uniform, Lily was accompanying on the bus. This was one of the many inequalities between Roy and I. There was little or no concern whether I was upset or felt slighted. Yet my resentment was building and I was reaching the time when I would defy Lily. The time of her controlling me was rapidly coming to an end. When she hit me I refused to cry. By the time I reached my thirteenth birthday I was already planning to run away. I had a foolproof plan to get back to Belfast, of course a 13 year olds foolproof plan may not have been as clever as I thought. Fortunately I never had to execute the plan, that summer my father and sister Anna came to take me home. I assume Lily realised she could no longer control me and decide it best to let me go. Belfast was different, it was exciting, and a whole new freedom. I attended my final school, leaving at age 14 in the summer of 1952. I had attended a total of 15 schools as Lily and husband moved from place to place. I started working, dancing, and smoking, the latter didn’t last long. However, I often felt like an outsider, a stranger in my own family. Having lived away for so much of my childhood I now found it difficult to fit in. I was also easily moved to anger, a symptom of living with Lily. In 1954 I began the process and joining the Royal Navy as a 15 year old Boy Seaman. This was probably the first major and certainly the wises decision of my young life.
If you have found my story interesting I would suggest reading the book, it is 388 pages and packed with all the events and details of my childhood. Check it out on my web page.
When I married many years later I made it my mission to always love my two daughters and make sure they had a happy childhood. I think I might have succeeded.
God Bless and keep reading