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Memoir: a personal experience


I didn’t set out to write a book. When I left school, my educational qualifications in English were zero. And so these memoirs were written slowly, and sometimes painfully as I relived my search for my own identity and for my baby brother, Kevin.

Abandoned into an orphanage two months before my fourth birthday by my father who had just kissed my forehead, all I knew was that my name was Gloria, that I had a baby brother, Kevin, and that he had vanished out of sight. His baby hand no longer squeezed mine as it had so often done, but that memory would live on in the deepest recesses of my mind and heart.

In this often grim place, I had to learn that I was ‘unwanted’. I had to learn the complexities of its rules and regulations. I had to learn the art of self-preservation amidst episodes of extreme violence and genuine kindness. As I grew, people came and went in my life – a minister and his wife who loved me but disappeared with no warning, two maiden ladies who came and stayed and guided me through some of my most difficult teenage years, and many others.

But always there were the two questions: who am I, and where is Kevin. Sometimes I think that my readers will find some of the twists and turns of my story unbelievable, but they are true! I have the evidence of my social work records from that era. I have letters, newspaper clippings and photographs as well as my own memories.

Suffice to say that my story includes, not necessarily in the following order, a page of the Yorkshire Post wrapping a fish supper, a brutal matron, a ragged paper seller, a seemingly all-powerful ‘Committee’, a forced incarceration in a Victorian-style mental institution, a whirlwind romance, true love, and my own dear children. Despair and elation – and at the very end, Kevin remained constantly central to my search but... That part of my story involves elation and tears. It’s in the book.

Why has The History Press agreed to publish a book that I didn’t set out to write?  I suppose that it is history – my history. Over the years, friends have encouraged me to put it into writing. I feel that the very act of writing, sometimes with the tears flowing, has helped me to come to terms with what happened to me, and I have been able, with God’s help, to forgive all those who did me harm. I feel that there are still my peers who had to endure similar kinds of treatment in 1950’s orphanages and who may find help in knowing that they were not alone. But above all, I want to encourage young people presently in the care system. Thank God, it’s vastly different from that of the early 1950s, but you may still feel ‘unwanted’. To you, I would simply say, 'Remember that you are special, and never a 'Nobody’s Child'. I found my identity and my place in the world. May you find yours!'

By G. J. Urquhart

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