Hannah's Shame - a true life story
(Self-published by Derek Leinster)
This is the poignant story of a boy’s impoverished childhood during the 1940s because of the neglect of the Church of Ireland, his quest to find his true identity, and his ultimate fight for justice.
Derek Leinster’s parents were an affluent Protestant and Catholic couple in 1940s Drumconrath. An unthinkable blemish on her farming family was avoided by leaving him in an unmarried mother’s home. No odium attached to the untroubled father, already siring a large legitimate family.
The horror of being fostered to unsuitable families – particularly that of a ne’er do-well drunk in Wicklow – coincided with most of the national experience: a foster mother dying from TB, the wretched bullying of the big farmers and the persistent hunger of growing children.
He grew up mostly in rural Wicklow, where he says the rich were ecumenically brutal to everyone else. The enduring shock is Derek’s loyalty, generosity and support to people who persistently belittled and exploited him.
Somehow he rose above it all, finding in boxing a sublimation for anger and intelligence. In time, he emigrated to England, and is now a much-loved grandfather. Later, he met his natural mother there – something she clearly did not want. He winds up almost blaming himself again for the actions of a woman who solved his existence through an inflexible ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude.
Derek writes for an English audience about ‘Southern Ireland’ – at a loss to understand why we don’t honour Guy Fawkes or the World War dead (is it only anti-imperialist not to?) – even calling a hurling match “a Catholic club” (never even formally true). One memorable description is the “land-commissioned farm”. The book would have benefited from the attentions of a good editor. However, here is a triumphant story, an exorcism of selfishness and hardship. Derek blames and blames, but it is superfluous now.
He has not merely come through – he has surpassed every bully or arrogant official he encountered. The Irish conspiracy against abandoned children may have more tales to yield. Derek Leinster’s is harrowing… and eventually inspiring.