When I left Goldenbridge industrial *school* in the late sixties, I answered an advert in a newspaper for an au-pair in Switzerland. I stuffed the prospective employer with lies in the application form. I pretended the Boyne’s of Boyne St. were my next of kin, despite having had no contact with the host family, who took me out of Goldenbridge on holidays and weekends, etc, since I was returned to Goldenbridge from their care at nine years of age after a long spell of ten months. This was a very common activity amongst those of us who spent our childhood in institutional settings. When I told the commission to inquire into child institutional abuse, and my solicitor at the time, about my travels to Switzerland, they were all absolutely gobsmacked that I had the wherewithal to go to a foreign country all on my own.
There was another girl, E. Donnelly, who was one of the lucky ones to go to “outside” national *school*. She was considered very clever, and I was definitely influenced by her. She didn’t hang around with me, but I would have been in the background discovering all about teenage stuff, etc that she was discussing with her Goldenbridge friends, who were streetwise, because they either went into the institution when they were older, or had family visiting them. E.D. was adored by staff and nuns alike. She had components in her personality that made staff want to favour her over the rest of us. She drew them to her like a magnet. She knew about the outside world, and talked incessantly about Australia, when I was placed in digs with her. She eventually went there, and is still there to this very day.
So, with the help of a priest on the street – and knowledge obtained at some stage or other from E.D. – whom I asked to give me permission – in the capacity of a guardian – to go to Switzerland I went there. The family paid my fare. I had to forfeit my passport to the host family until I’d reimbursed them with air-fare funding.
The family lived in a rural area that was betwixt Lucerne and Zug. The village – Rotkreuz (Red-Cross) came under the jurisdiction of Kanton Zug (Train). Margaret Müller worked as a bi-lingual secretary in Lucerne. I visited Zug on Saturdays when Margaret Müller, the head of the family, went shopping there in the grey hooded Citroën car. I haven’t got too many recollections of the town, as I never went anywhere on my own at the time. Excepting the local village, which lay some seven miles away from Zug, with Daniel, who was the son of Margaret Müller. I was very institutionalised,having went directly to Switzerland from Goldenbridge. I could have been in Timbuktu as far as I was concerned. I knew nothing about geography at all. I absolutely adored the little boy, and learned a lot of Swiss-German from him, despite his tender years. I think he was either two or three years old. I also learned to read and write in old Swiss German, from MM’s mother. I was not allowed to speak English at all. It was very difficult, and when the coast was clear I used to change the radio channel to Luxembourg, which was all the rage at the time. I also remember contacting Esther Boyne in Glasgow and asking her to send me on some illustrated teenage comics.
I fell in love with Switzerland then, as it represented freedom and everything that was different to what I’d been used to at the time. Unfortunately, it was not to last, and I was deported back to Goldenbridge. I had spoofed my way to Switzerland. I was still under the remit of the institution until I was eighteen. I was not treated very nicely by a staff member when I stepped down off the aeroplane in Dublin. Sr. F and Ms. D. were there to greet me. Not nicely, I should add by the latter, who cheekily pointed out to me, that “who did I think I was speaking in German”, it would have been unheard of in Goldenbridge circles, and especially from someone like me who was on the lowest rung of the Goldenbridge ladder. I was never a favourite in Goldenbridge. I guess my personality type doesn’t befit being doted on by people. It paid off handsomely to be one of the cronies in Goldenbridge. It took me a while to learn to adapt to speaking English, as I’d been thoroughly psychologically and linguistically immersed in the Swiss culture and language. I don’t think that would be the same today. I think it had to do with being very young at the time. I was like a sponge, able to absorb my surroundings. I thought everything was grey and dull and dark in Ireland, climate wise in comparison to Switzerland. Notwithstanding having to cope with being back in an industrial school that held such bad memories for me. I pined for Switzerland. In time I returned to the country that to this day I still love. When the world and people let me down I think of Switzerland, as well as Fairfield and I know that there is somewhere that will spark a bit of life.
Upon viewing the video I can recall a lot of the buildings in Zug. The Swiss love Murals bedecked on buildings.