Most will be aware of the past and present stigma attached to having children out of wedlock or to someone from a different ethnicity or culture.
In the past here in Ireland the consequences for those mothers was great. Some women would have been ostracised from their families, forced into having back street abortions, some forced to put their children into orphanages, never to be seen again, some incarcerated in mental institutions or mother and baby homes.
Most would have been deeply traumatised, and might have developed mental health issues as a result. The children and the circumstances under which they were born, kept as family secrets. Many mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, brothers and sisters will have gone to their graves with these secrets leaving behind children with little or no knowledge of their identity.
Some of you might be aware of the current investigation in relation to the Bon Secours mother and baby home for unwed mothers in Tuam down in Galway where the bodies of almost 800 babies and toddlers were discovered. The primary cause of death was reported to be from infectious disease and malnutrition. That should give you an indication of the circumstances under which they lived and died.
Amateur historian Catherine Corless published the article and the allegations are being investigated by the commission of investigation into mother and baby homes. The commission includes judge Yvonne Murphy (chair) Dr William Duncan (intern legal expert on cp and adoption) and Prof Mary E Daly (historian).
My mother was Ivy Gracey, later becoming Ivy Yellowe when she married my father Frank Peter Yellowe who was Nigerian.
My mother had several children out of wedlock and as you might be aware, most of us are of dual heritage. This being the case, she too was subjected to some of the appalling treatment I’ve just described.
My mother was well aware of the stigma and of the consequences and she told me many stories about such women and the appalling treatment they and their children were subjected to.
Her life might have been easier without us, however, we were brought up by my mother with support from my grandfather. We faced many challenges in our life including racism and neglect. Through it all, we were never apart from our mother and she kept us with her through good or ill. I can’t say if this was a good or a bad thing, just a fact.
Most are aware that my family and I grew up here in the 60’s which was during the troubles and the book I’ve written is about my journey here at that time.
For the Love of a Mother, The Black Children of Ulster.
In the book I describe what life was like for me as a little black girl exposed to sectarianism, racism, violence, poverty and neglect.
Having had to deal with these issues on a daily basis affected me very badly and I became depressed. When I tried to show or tell my family that I was depressed and why, they couldn’t understand and didn’t want to believe it. So I learned to hide it and I did a very good job.
That is until one night my hidden depression took a hold of me in such a way that nearly ended my life here on this earth.
The thought of death drove me to making some very positive life changing decisions which included moving to London.
I moved to London in 1986 and continued with my new life changes. I have wonderful friends and a questionable social life. During my time in London I had the nerve to enter the University of North London and I graduated with an honours degree in applied social science.
I’ve travelled half way around the world to places such as India, the Caribbean, Japan and Africa, where I was privileged to stand on the land of the Masai Mara and meet their people. Me…standing on a land I had only ever seen on TV…Me meeting people I had only ever heard about through David Attenborough…Me standing on the land of my ancestors in amazement.
When I first made trips from London back here, some told me…you’ve changed! They said that my accent was changing and they weren’t pleased I didn’t come home every weekend.
You forget where you come from!
I think when you read my book you will see that I certainly don’t forget where I came from. I tell you in great detail where I came from, where I went and where I’m still heading.
Where is that I hear you ask….when I was a little girl if I asked my mother where she was going..she would answer….I’m going to see a man about dog!!!
To coin a phrase….you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl.