Tuesday, 21 February 2017

How I found my brother - Part 1


I said I would tell you about how we found our brother and here it is - true to my word. How my brother found us (Part 2) will follow soon.
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One Friday evening in February 2013, my OH and I were on our way to Kettering to meet up with my brothers. We were stopping at the eldest brother's to pick him up and then go on to the the youngest brother's for a drink and a catch up. My mum and eldest brother had moved to Kettering from London in 1999, and my youngest brother moved to Kettering in 2006. My mum died in 2009 and my dad died, aged only 47, in 1980.

When we got to the eldest brother's house he told me that someone had come to the door earlier in the day; spoken to him and had left him a card. He said the person - a man - said that he used to work with my mum. This immediately rang alarm bells because I knew my mum had for most of her working life, worked predominantly with women.

When I read the card (I still have it), I literally went weak at the knees and had to sit down, but I knew at once that what it said was inescapably true. On 13th February, 1953; thirteen months before I was born in March 1954, and before my mum married my dad; my mum gave birth to a baby boy whom she called 'Julian Jerome Flynn' - (her maiden name was Flynn). She gave birth to Julian in St. Pelagia's Home for Penitent Girls (I kid you not) which was  in Highgate, North London. It's since been demolished and is now a gated development.

All three of us were very close to our mum. We all loved her deeply. She was our rock, we knew she loved us unconditionally and she was always there for us. She was great fun to be with; we loved her company and spending time with her. Yet, none of us knew about this other brother. On that night I could only feel shock at the not knowing as we set off to the younger brother's house.
Image result for St Pelagias Home for Penitent Girls image
 St. Pelagia's Home
LOST HOSPITALS OF LONDON

St Pelagia's Home
St Joseph's Maternity Home
34 Highgate West Hill, N6 6NJ
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1889 - 1972

Maternity
St Pelagia's Home for Destitute Girls at No. 25 Bickerton Road in Upper Holloway was founded in 1889 by the Roman Catholic order of the Sisters Servants of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.It provided  accommodation for unmarried mothers and their first-born babies, who were allowed to enter the Home when the child was a fortnight old.
The girls were admitted free of charge on condition that they contributed to the earning power of the Home by working in its laundry.
The Home later occupied the neighouring house at No. 27 Bickerton Road.

In 1934 it moved to West Hill Place, a large house on Highgate West Hill, where it re-opened in 1936 after the Convent of Sacred Hearts had been built adjoining the original mansion.

In March 1948 Mayfield, an adjoining 2-storey Victorian house, was bought and equipped as an antenatal and maternity home.  It had 18 beds and was named St Joseph's Maternity Home.

The Labour Ward was on the first floor, while the ground floor contained 6 antenatal beds, and 12 postnatal beds in 3- or 5-bedded wards, with 12 cots for the babies.  An isolation room was added later.

The patients, who stayed for an average of 12 weeks,  were cared for by three nurses.

The LCC paid a guinea (21 shillings - £1.05) a weeks to the Home for expectant mothers and 25 shillings (£1.25) for mothers and babies (this was later increased to £2 10s (£2.50) a week).

In 1954 the Homes had 70 beds for mothers and their babies.  Both properties had extensive gardens of 2 acres, but the buildings were in much need of repair, with damaged ceilings in St Joseph's and a leaking flat roof.

The Homes closed in 1972.


Present status (February 2009)
The Homes and the convent were demolished in 1970.  Their site now contains Hill Court and the West Hill Park estate.



Source: Google (for both photos)

This is an article about St. Pelagia's from the Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10932969/Convent-that-forced-young-mothers-to-give-up-their-babies.html

It is certainly worth reading although I don't believe my mum was forced to give Julian up by the nuns, but it would have been extremely difficult to have kept him. One, it would have got back to her parents in Ireland and the shame of having an unmarried daughter with a child could have led to ostracism by their community. Secondly,  in England there wasn't much in the way of good affordable childcare in the 1950s and mum would have to have worked to support herself and her child. There was a lot of stigma and shame attached to being an unmarried mother at that time.

When we got to the youngest brother's house I told him get himself a glass of wine and sit down as we had some news for him! We spent the rest of the night on the computer trying to find out more information. The one thing we did know was that our dad wasn't Julian's dad. 

I rang Ireland and spoke to two of our surviving aunts - my mother's sister's - they were totally unaware of Julian. One of the aunt's told me they had only been made aware of my existence (and my mum's marriage) when my mum turned up in Ireland with me aged 11 months! I was left  with my grandparent's and my aunt's, who were only young teenagers at the time, for about 3 months whilst she returned to England and work - of which more later.

Our searches on the computer kept taking us to an agent who represented Brian May (of Queen) and eventually brought us to a picture of someone called 'Julian Littman. This person looked exactly like one of our first cousins; the eldest son of my mum's older and closest sister, Aunty Betty.  Unfortunately, this aunt had died in the late 1980s.

The card that had been left had telephone contact numbers on it and we agreed that in the morning I would call the numbers. I didn't sleep a wink that night and got up really early to search on my own computer for any information. This is what I found:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH_1j-JxftU

Unfortunately; the youtube link does not work. but this one will give a sound clip:
http://www.soundhound.com/?t=100946292571723461

On the album entitled 'Life's Rich Bloody Tapestry' - Track 7 was called: 'The Ballad of Kathy Flynn'. My mum's name was Kathleen and she was known as Kathy Flynn. As soon as I saw this and then listened to a clip of the song; I knew Julian was my brother. I rang my brothers in tears and told them to listen to the song clip.

To be continued...