I’ve just learned from a very private source that my uncle Willie has died. He passed away after suffering a heart-attack on the 9th of January. He was 76 years old. I’m feeling very distraught and thought that it might help me to talk to myself about it in my journal.
His room was the last one to the right of the blue flag on the top floor.
I had just tweeted a while before hearing the terrible news that my life was an open book.
The reason I said that was because most of my life was kept a secret. I quite simply refuse any longer to be stifled by a hostile world that was so ashamed of me. I suffered because my uncle was a priest. I bore the brunt of it as a child in Goldenbridge, because of the nuns who kept hush-hush about my background.
It was so shameful in the past for a woman to have had a close relative in the priesthood and to be pregnant out of wedlock. So much so that the children of such women were invariably sent into industrial *schools* if they were not fortunate enough to be adopted.
Relatives oftentimes colluded in the hiding away of the illegitimate children, as the consequences of anyone knowing about them brought huge dishonour to the families. concerned. There is an example of a child being kept by the family in Brian Friel’s excellent play ‘Dancing at Lughnasa, but that would haver been a rarity in the Ireland of the fifties and sixties and later.
Some children in Goldenbridge who even had nuns in the same religious order as the nun in charge, refused to tell the children in question for over fifty years who their aunties were. It turned out that they were friends of the nun in charge of Goldenbridge.
Sister X deprived the children of their proper identities. It wasn’t until Bernadette Fahy, a Goldenbridge counterpart and counsellor challenged Sister X that she was forced to reveal the information. I should add that not only did the nun deprive the inmates of their aunties, she also deprived them of the most important figure in their lives, their mother. One set of twins were reunited with their mother after fifty years. The twins eventually visited their mother every single day when she arrived in a nursing home in their area. It is a poignant story. I was glad to see their mother in the home where she was lovingly cared for by the staff as well.
The same scenario occurred with me. I was told by the religious that I once had a mother, but, that she was dead. They told me nothing about myself. However, Sr. Y did whisper something to the effect of a priest being connected to me; it was to a Dublin family, whom I went to stay with for a while. It meant absolutely nothing to me at the time, as I was not cognisant of what a family was – never mind priests’.
It would have been kind of my cousins to have made some kind of contact with me to tell me the news. Alas – I was to hear about it after the funeral had taken place in Dalgan Park on Tuesday.
It’s rather ironic that I was putting up photos of other religious houses in a different context, just prior to hearing the devastating news.
Dalgan Park, however, is a very peaceful place. I’ve driven around the massive grounds on many occasions. My uncle too took me around. It was on one of those occasions that I was to learn of the tragic Knock, Co Mayo farm-homestead fire, that took the lives of three of my uncles first cousins.
Gosh – it’s too painful to talk anymore for the night. I’d best be off to the leaba. It’s at times like this, that those who have warm loving families and warm loving friends, benefit the most. They don’t have to suffer alone.
My private source said:
“It is a lovely quiet place and you could hear all the birds singing as he was laid to rest.”
Thanks E. R. for passing on that all the information. The graves are not too far away from the shrubbery in the photo. I can just visualise it in my minds eye where he’s buried. He did tell me some years ago, in a kind of way, that he would be buried there. He brought me to the open cemetery reserved for the missionary priests and showed me. I knew he was trying to tell me something. It was unspoken.
I do realise there could be no contact made with me in order to go to the funeral, as I hadn’t given anyone my new address at all. I guess too that it must be difficult to communicate with me online. Families are like that – one mustn’t divulge the family secrets.
Well, I was a secret for far too long and always worried about what others thought. Not anymore. I’m sure I’m not the only survivor of an industrial *school* who had a relation in Dalgan Park. And, if so – so what!
Au-revoir Uncle Willie. Thank you for all your past kindness to me. I know that you cared for me very much and treated me the same as the rest of the cousins. I’m sorry that I could not live up to your expectations. I know that I was upset when the two lads from Canada were invited to Kumamoto, Japan, and I got infuriated because I was not invited. I wanted to have it to say that I got the opportunity to stay with my favourite uncle in a far off distant land. I know that you worried about me all the time and I too worried about you. You were so like your one and only sister in temperament and stature.
I will remember you for the times you took me to all the best hotels in Co Wexford, Dublin, and elsewhere. You spoiled me so much, just like mama did and I was never to be satisfied. The damage of the past was always lurking somewhere around the corner to pounce on me and show its ugly face. (Perhaps I should find another analogy other than ugly face. It’s presently popular in the atheospherel)
I know it wasn’t easy for you growing up in a huge boarding school, but I always managed to pile on the differentiation between your privileged life and mine.
I loved being with you. I will miss you. I had phoned you up only two weeks ago, and was planning on going to see you in Dalgan Park with E.R.
I know that it must have been painful for you when I spoke out about the church….I’m stuck for words…
Thanks for teaching me to drive. I really tested your patience.
I’m so glad I got to know you. It was a real privilege.
I never got a wink of sleep last night thinking about the demise of my uncle. I’m just wondering if the years of not seeing him has shielded me more from the anguish I would have otherwise felt. I felt closest to him next to my mother, despite my not having had contact with him for such a long time.
I found it very difficult to communicate with him since I went public about institutional child abuse at Goldenbridge. It must have caused him a lot of pain, but the truth had to come out at last. I was full to overflowing and couldn’t bear it any longer the fact that other people were constantly making jibes at me about having a priest in the family via a survivors’ website and resultantly taunted me so much about it that I left the blogosphere for nigh on one year. It was SO unbearable to cope with Indeed. It was a person who proclaimed to help the religious who gave me hell on the Internet, the very same person also claimed that s/he was there to help ‘genuine’ survivors. As if I wasn’t one at all. There were also survivors who grew up with me who wanted to blow the whistle. It was coming from all quarters.
One of the most painful stories that nearly cost me my good health pertained to my mother. A Co Wexford woman who was so venomous made it succinctly clear that my mother abandoned me and that I was nothing but a BASTARD. There was no irony of the word intended. It was meant to be full-blown. There was no beating around the bush with this callous woman. She cut to the chase. It was despicable. She had nothing to write home about herself. I was so devastated upon hearing this woman talk in such a cruel manner. It haunted me for a very long time. I used to wake up with nightmares. I was so afraid of this person that I fled the area for months on end. I knew there were a few people who knew the circumstances of my background. I’d kept myself at a distance from most people in a rural town for fear of anyone pointing the finger.
The nasty woman even went as far as telling me who my father was indeed. She had it all worked out that an employee who’d worked at the farm in days of yore and whose sisters’ house I was always in — was the father. She was so wrong. it was all hearsay. She hailed from the next county and possibly listened to Chinese whispers. Gossip is always rife in small rural towns it keeps them going.
Whenever my uncle said mass in the local parish when he came home from Japan, I made sure to keep clear of the church. The priests were very understanding of him and me. It did unnerve him so much that people would talk about his illegitimate niece in whispers, which is wont to happen in the valley of the squinting windows. He did remind me so often that I was his niece and that he loved me as much as he did the rest of his nieces and nephews. He was very close to his only sister and he would go to the end of the earth to make me feel included. That thought gave me the impetus to stand up and be counted.
I then swore that nobody was going to make me suffer any longer. I’d had enough of all the pretence. I wanted rid of the big weight off my shoulders. So when the small-talk seeped over into the blogosphere some years later, when the institutional child abuse controversy came to the fore, and I had fled for a year out of shame and horror over it, I decided when I returned that my life was going to be an open book from there on in.
Too much had happened to me in the Regina Ceoli hostel and Goldenbridge for me to remain silent any longer – the pandora box had just suddenly swung open and all was let loose. I was also very incensed that the religious at the commission to inquire into institutional child abuse were denying that abuse ever occurred in industrial *schools*, or rather, were watering it down or else, were passing the buck on to other sections of society.
If family members don’t like it then they are not prepared to accept that the pain of being kept hidden for a whole childhood was so utterly tortuous and that, if, family honour is more important than a suffering human being – well then they definitely need to get their priorities right.
Survivors of institutional child/clerical abuse have changed the mindset of the small country of Ireland. So the bigger picture has to be seen. Survivors have suffered tremendously for pointing out the wrong-doing of the religious, the state and society. Prophets are never accepted in their own country.
A young girl called Jessica Ahlquist, who’s now the same age as survivors when they left their respective institutions, has pointed out to American society some serious wrong-doings ,which I won’t ponder on here. She challenged the system and won out, but she too like us, was demonised and vilified by parts of society who are in favour of the church. We can fully identify with her cause. Jessica is lucky though to have had the advantage of being educated and presumably having a loving family to stand by her.
I thank ER for telling me about the passing of Uncle Willie. I’ll go quietly up to Dalgan Park to pay my respects at the grave and will also take in the grave of Mama in Co Cavan.
I’ve just spent the last couple of hours crying non-stop over the loss of my uncle. I had bonded with him so much. There will be nobody to replace him ever in my life. He’s gone and that’s it, forever. It’s final. I’m so devastated. Grief is an awful thing, almost, everyone has to go though it at some stage in their lives.
I looked at the website for Dalgan Park, but there is still no mention of his departure. I expect it’ll be in the Meath Chronicle this week.
I got a shock two years ago regarding a first cousin of my uncle – who was also in the same order, when I saw his obituary in the Meath newspaper. At least this time around I was informed via a personal source. I was represented without my knowledge at the funeral and that is a bit of consolation.
It’s now almost a quarter to eleven in the evening and I’m still in floods of tears over my uncle. To think that there will never be another conversation between us is just breaking my heart. The isolation I felt when mama died is all coming back to me and the isolation that goes with it is heartrending. I’ve got such a splitting headache with all the crying I’ve done. It keeps going around my head if I’d have felt any better having seeing before he died. Or was it just better to live with the memories of when we last saw each other some years back. He has been on my mind all day and I just wonder when the tears are going to stop.
To think that I’ve not been too far from him all these years and I never made the effort to go to visit him, because of all that had happened regarding the Ryan report. I did worry too that the knock-on effect of my visit would upset him and cause him ill-health.
He was a good man. I know that he would have been looked after very well in Dalgan Park. It’s a blessing to think that he had all his faculties in tact. E.R, said that she spoke to him over the Xmas period and there was an arrangement made for a visitation.
Dalgan Park has published the obituary. I got terribly sad again when I saw his photo. He’s all full of smiles and I’m all full of tears. I remember him once getting a black and white photo for a temporary Irish driving licence, as he was staying for a longer than usual period in the country. He was giving out yards about the fact that someone might think he was an ex-convict. I laughed heartily and reminded him that it might just get more than a second glance if the gardai were to stop him for driving too slowly. He was such a careful driver. I didn’t think men bothered about how they appeared in photo’s. Well, he did – that’s for sure.
I shouldn’t really be saying this – but he had a suit that was worth over a thousand old punts. The Japanese used to throw money at him left, right and centre. His family too spoiled him rotten.
It cost over a quarter of a million yen/dollars annually to belong to a golf club in Japan in times when it was a very wealthy country. He was invariably frequently a guest of honour at these clubs. The Japanese would even fly off to America and Ireland specifically for golf sessions and tournaments. Willie was a golf fanatic. There were many golf courses I meandered about with him in Wexford and Kilkenny. I lapped up the high life, which he introduced me to in buckets. (He was making it up to me for my miserable past.) Mount Juliet being a most notable one. I just loved dining in the swanky hotel afterwards. He was also fond of the golf-course in Rosslare. He usually went out golfing with his priest friends. Golfing was second nature to them and he was really so much at home when he stepped on the luscious green lawns. I suppose it was a kind of escape from the claustrophobic built-up living that he had to endure in Japan. He needed to charge his batteries. He would tell me about the workers who had to wear white gloves to pack people onto the underground trains. Ireland in comparison was like a paradise with its vast open green spaces. He surely knew how to live well and get plenty of healthy exercise.
Another passion of my uncle was horse-racing. That would be understandable considering that he hailed from a very horsey county. He hung around with the horsey set. His relatives were big-time into the hunt and one of them owned a race-horse. (I know hunting is really not an acceptable sport). Others in his set were part of a syndicate who owned a very up and coming race-horse. His niece was into horse-riding and dressage competitions in England since she was knee-high.
Every year saw him either at Cheltenham or Galway, that was when he was at home holidaying in Ireland. A local pub-owner-farmer and his wife would take him on week-ends to the Galway races. It was their annual holiday activity, everything else came second to horse-racing.