Sunday, 25 January 2009

The Light in the Windows

I got this book from a carboot sale for 50pence only. It is a memoir by June Goulding, who worked as a midwife in a home for unmarried mothers in Bessboro, Ireland from 1951-1952.

She wrote this book in the 1990s, after an accident that nearly killed her. She thought that if she waits any longer, the story would be burried untold with her death. Well, it took her 40 years to get the courage to write the book. Probably she waited for the people involved to die, I don't know, because stories like this is not what you want to leak outside the walls.

So, the home was managed by Catholic nuns. Pregnant unmarried girls were sent there,usually by their mothers, to continue their pregnancy and deliver the babies without the knowledge of the neighbours / villagers. Sometimes even the girls' fathers did not know! Their mothers would lie, saying that they were sent to boarding school or something like that. This was Ireland 1950s, when premarital conception was still a taboo; unlike now in the UK where single mothers get more benefits than the married ones. Sadly, most of the girls were naive teenagers, barely 16-18.

Well,although the home was managed by nuns, you will be surprised to know what kind of treatment the girls had. They live in dormitories but were not allowed to communicate with each other at all. The food were not enough, everyday is just bread and margarine, and once a week they will be given a tiny portion of sausages. And there were no workers in that home, all work was done by the heavily pregnant or nursing girls. This include cooking, laundry, scrubbing floors, maintaining the garden of the large convent. no rest for the pregnant mothers, all these are considered atonement for their sins.

The worst part is, the girls had to stay at the home for 3 years, to nurse and raise the children, then the children would be put up for adoption or sent to orphanage. The mothers could not keep the children. it's like the mothers have no right at all on the children. And they were not informed of the whereabouts of the children, which orphanage they were sent to or who adopted them. This is very cruel, as who does not love a 3 year old, whom has been the only person you cared about and whom loved you back unconditionally. At that time, adoption act has not already exist in Ireland. None of the mothers signed any adoption papers.

Goulding's job was to do antenatal check up for the mothers and deliver the babies (she was given a room there so that she can attend if labour occurs at night time). But her power was limited, she can't even give antenatal vitamins to the girl's. Labour has no analgesia at all and the girls were not allowed to scream. Worse, the girls were denied any stitch, no matter how their vagina torn in labour. This is also a type of punishment for their sins.

In the home Goulding tried to do what she could only do, be a friend to the lonely girls. She became their shoulders and sometimes helped them smuggle out letters, buy them cigarettes etc. She even helped a mother and her baby daughter escaped the home together.

Very interesting read, it is a memoir, so don't expect any fantastic writing style. But it does make you shake your head (in disbelief).

Saturday, 24 January 2009

First Entry


As this is my very first entry, I will write 2 of my favourite rubaiyats by the famous Omar Khayyam

For those who does not know, rubaiyat is a type of Persian poetry that is written in 4 lines, in which the all the lines rhyme except for the third line (ala2 pantun), but since these are english translations, the translator did his best to get the meaning but I guess it's difficult to rhyme all the lines..


Be happy, for anguish shall be boundless;
In the wheel of Heaven there shall be a conjunction of stars;
The brick which men shall mould out of your dust,
will become the wall of other men's palace.

(be happy while you may because the wheel of life is determined in Heaven and it may bring you anguish, after all, after you die you will become dust which in the future will be used to make the bricks of other people's palace)

The Game of Chess

We are but chessmen in God's scheme of things,
The most are merely pawns, a few are kings;
And when our game is done
Back in the box we tumble one by one.

(i think this is quite straight forward; our destiny is determined by Allah, and whoever we are,in the end to Him we will return)