I asked poet Kathleen Freeman via twitter, if I could place a poem here from the amazing inspirational collection at her poetry blog. She kindly gave me the go-ahead. There were so many to choose from, nonetheless, I settled on Stolen Children. I know that it’ll speak to innumerable survivors of industrial *schools*, survivors of clerical abuse, and survivors of Magdalen Laundries, who will be able to identify with loss of childhood on a different level.
H/t © Kathleen Freeman
I’m lost for words every time I go to read Kathleen’s poetry. It stirs up unbelievable sadness from the past. Her own preamble tells a very painful tale, not dissimilar to that of most survivors of Goldenbridge and industrial *schools* in general. She could be a cloned copy of us.
Two months before my second birthday my mother left me and my brothers and sister in the high street with a note. June 16th 1954.
My mother was fined £10 for neglect and abandonment.
As an adult I obtained my Social Services file, it told me a lot about my history and confirmed some things that I already knew…
Read more here
The poem is self-explanatory. However I want to draw an analogy between the stolen children in the poem and the stolen children’s lives of the above-mentioned. They have so much in common.
See: opening line of poem, “once upon a summer day wickedness crept into the kingdom”. We instantly become cognisant of impending Little Red Riding Hood creepiness on the horizon.
A wolf wants to eat the girl but is afraid to do so in public. He approaches Little Red Riding Hood and she naïvely tells him where she is going. He suggests the girl pick some flowers, which she does. In the meantime, he goes to the grandmother’s house and gains entry by pretending to be the girl. He swallows the grandmother whole, (In some stories, he locks her in the closet), and waits for the girl, disguised as the grandma.
Hungry for innocence, its blathering mouth slack with greed
When the girl arrives, she notices that her grandmother looks very strange. Little Red Riding Hood then says, “What a deep voice you have,” “The better to greet you with,” said the wolf. “Goodness, what big eyes you have.”, said the little girl.” The better to see you with.”, said the wolf. “And what big hands you have!” exclaimed Little Red Riding Hood, stepping over to the bed. “The better to hug you with,” said the wolf. “What a big mouth you have,” the little girl murmured in a weak voice. “The better to eat you with!” growled the wolf, and jumping out of bed, he swallowed her up too. Then, with a fat full tummy, he fell fast asleep.
The lives of the above were also stolen and lost when they too were far away from home in their respective institutions or when they were taken away for long weekends to be sexually abused by priests and others in trusted positions. The seeds of pain were planted when they were first emotionally, psychologically, mentally, and sexually abused and damaged by perpetrators, who really should have known better.
Like a thief in the night they too were snatched and robbed of their innocence and sense of wonder and engagement with the young world that should have been their oyster and one that should have embraced and snuggled and kept them warm, safe and forever in awe. They lost the natural ability to bond with their parents and loved ones because of the tremendous burden of guilt they had to secretly carry. They became aliens to themselves and alienated from the figures of attachment and the rest of the world. Instead of seeing all white, everything became full of black clouds.
I would like to say thank you to all the kind twitterers who retweeted Kath’s poignant poem on ‘Stolen Children’. Sometimes words escape us, when we want to send out a strong message to the religious. In this instance to Cardinal Sean Brady, the Primate of all Ireland. To let it be known how deeply the suffering continues, despite the passing of time – in the bodies, minds and psyches of survivors, because of the atrocious systematic abuse that was perpetrated on them when they were all but innocent, vulnerable children. The religious should have known better. Children were entrusted into their care because they were considered to be safer than safe human beings. They gave up their lives for a *loving* God, yet showed only contempt for the bodies of young growing children, when they sexually abused and beat them to a pulp and forced them to do slave-labouring jobs for monetary gain. The list goes on ad infinitum. Children, whose lives should have been sacred, were stolen, instead, and the fallout of same has left its legacy and untold suffering.
Betrayal of Trust: Father Brendan Smyth
“I also accept that I was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the Church, which thankfully is now a thing of the past.”
How come then if it’s the case that it’s thankfully now a thing of the past, were some important survivors in Raphoe not contacted for the audit report? It seems very much at variance with above statement made recently to the media by Cardinal Sean Brady?