I was never going to let go of my experiences at St. Anne's Convent, I made a vow to myself as a young teenager, and I kept it. I was struggling with religion at that time, I think I actually wanted to believe, life seemed to be a lot easier for those who did. Even until middle age, I said a prayer each night, it seemed to go well with the cocoa and I could go off to sleep easy.
A vow at such a young age, was a huge thing, still is, its a promise that you have got to keep, no matter what. I wanted to record those times, at first with a five year diary, but when the novelty wore off, I would just store them in my head. Hey, I was a young teenager, and my hormones were going nuts.
My quest to write led me on to study the very heart of human nature. I have studied, psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists, in depth, in my attempts to track down that evil streak. The part where our humanity switches off? The part where we fail to empathise.
I tried to look at the people in charge of the Convent. The nuns, our parents, society as it then was. I have tried to capture the spirit of the time. The awful feeling I had of missing out on all the fun of the sixties when the doors of that convent closed. I had made a promise, not just to myself, but to all the other kids too. I had decided to become a recorder of history, I wanted to become a voice for the people. In my defence, I was only half way through the Maid of Orleans.
In the convent I would cry myself to sleep every night, sobbing as I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do. There is nothing so frustrating as being completely powerless. I knew I had to keep those memories, in a way I separated myself from reality, I became an observer, the cruelty and indignity was not happening to me, it was happening to someone else. The heroine from my book.
Although I had the trial in my head (and book), I couldn't do it in my father's lifetime. I didn't want to hurt him. I also did not want to reveal my sordid background to friends and work colleagues. We all have our reasons.
Believe it or not, I did not want to upset elderly nuns. However, even at the very end, the nuns would not tell the truth. Had they done, I might have abandoned the legal route, in the very earliest days.
My lawyer told me at the very beginning, 'this won't bring you closure', but it did. It wasn't me that was mad, it was them. As I have spoken to and met up with other survivors, its as though we are peas in a pod. Our lives have run along similar lines, even though we have had no contact. 'Karen' and I, even had the same red, elephant, place mats. Our homes and hobbies were almost identical. Huge variety of books, of all shapes and sizes, and a homely kitchen to eat and chat in. But we had shared much grief too.
As stories of tragedies unfurled that weekend, my resolve to follow that vow through became strengthened. In trying to discover others from St. Anne's, I heard so many heartbreaking stories, families torn apart, the warped, unforgiving, ideology of the nuns. Kids were literally turfed out at the age of 16 and left to fend for themselves. Most of them had become completely ostracised from their own families. I know of two lovely ladies who lost over 30 years contact with their Irish relatives, because they were never told about them.
Most who leave the convent, can often leave those memories behind them, and I am in awe of them, if I am honest. They are able to achieve contentment and fulfilling lives. I always respect those 'who don't want to talk about it', or stir up old memories. Those damaged by their experiences can still achieve much, but they have inner demons.
Peter Rands was a narcissistic, sociopath, an ex-Jesuit monk, who was handed young boys on request. Not only was he house master, he was scout master, mentor, religious guidance counsellor - and advisor to the convent on all things worldy and ecumenical. He was sacked in 1972 after being found with a boy in his bed, but bizarrely he carried on working with children until the late 1980's.
He was never prosecuted. Some lay staff from that time have now been prosecuted. Rita was visited in Australia, by two detectives from Dartford, Kent. They successfully prosecuted two former Uncles. Other have since followed suit.
Care survivors, have a shared experience, and I still think of the friends I had there, actually, all the kids who were there, as siblings. I genuinely care for them and love to hear their stories too. For me there was closure, I felt as though I had been unbound.