Wednesday, 22 February 2017

How my brother found us...Part 2

The Ballad of Kathy Flynn - (2012) - Julian Littman

Long ago, young Kathy Flynn took a train to London Town
She fell in love with an Indian hero - he turned her heart around
With a Vir Chakra into his jacket - how could she resist?
He took  her to his hotel room and there they more than kissed
He said;"Kathy, will you marry me?"
Of course, she answered yes.
She dreamed of life in far Madras - an Indian Princess.

He telephoned long distance to his father in Madras
And told him of his intention to wed the Irish lass
The old man flew into a rage and said your future's been arranged
Marry her and you'll die without a rupee to your name
Without a word he slipped away leaving not a trace behind
And left poor Kathy waiting -  out of sight and out of mind.

Chorus: I'll sing a lullaby to the Irish girl and the dreams she could not keep
I'll sing a lullaby to the Irish girl and sing that girl to sleep.

She met a man of magic - the Great Marlo was his name
They took a mind reading act out on the road and found some kind of fame
Pretty soon she realised a child was on the way
Her Indian hero had left her with more than a broken heart that day
She cast her fate to the Mother Church who duly took her in
She gave away the boy at birth and never saw him again.

Chorus: I'll sing a lullaby to the Irish girl and the boy she could not keep
I'll sing a lullaby to the Irish girl and sing that girl to sleep.

The boy grew up in a happy home but when his folks had gone
The boy was curious to know more about his mum
He traced her to a little town and called her on the phone
But she hung up when she heard his name - shaken to the bone.
She wrote him a letter saying never a day goes by
 When I don't think about you, boy, but I must go on living a lie
You see, I've a family of my own  - our secret's never been told
The truth would tear this house apart and I'm too frail and too old.

2nd chorus again
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Julian knew he was adopted from about the age of 8 or 9. He came home from school one day and asked his mum a question that he was constantly being asked at school. "Mum, why is it that I'm a different colour to J (Julian's adoptive parent's natural son) and you and Dad? His mum told him in a very matter of fact way that he was adopted and his biological parents were an Anglo Indian pilot in the Indian Air Force and his mum was an Irish actress.

Julian's dad, Anthony Ignatius Kenneth Suares, was an Indian hero; he had been awarded the Vir Chakra in 1949 and you can read about it here. He died some time ago and Julian never managed to trace him. He still wants to explore that side of his family.

 My mum came to England from Ireland in 1948, aged 16, as a Nanny for a family in Edgeware. When she was 18 she was 'discovered' in Lyons Corner House in Marble Arch by the man I knew throughout my childhood as 'Uncle Marlo'. Marlo, or the 'Great Marlo' to give him his stage name; was a magician and mum was his assistant;  'Georgette'. They did a mind reading act together and travelled all over the UK. Mum had a tiny speaking part in a film about boxing in the 1950s, but we've never been able to discover the title. She would never have described herself as an actress but she always said she had been 'on the stage'. She and 'The Great Marlo' often did publicity stunts for their act; below is a still from British Pathe news item  - narrated by Eamonn Andrews - and available here on youtube; where mum was buried alive for one such stunt. It was a very cold day; everyone is wearing overcoats but mum appears dressed in a bra and skirt - some things never change when it comes to women...



As children we loved Uncle Marlo - he used to make sixpences and shillings appear out of his ears or from up our sleeves! He lived just off Church Street market in London; and he and his wife were very good to my mum because she when she applied to St. Pelagia's to have Julian; she gave her address as their address; she must have been living with them throughout her pregnancy.

What I have found out is Julian's birth was something that probably only one other family member; my Aunty Betty, knew about. Betty's name appears on the St.Pelagia documentation as mum's next of kin. In the latter stages of pregnancy mum could have told her four sisters; all of whom were living in London at the time, she was away touring with the Great Marlo. My dad never knew about Julian; in Julian's adoption paper's this is made clear as they state the adoption forms to be signed by mum must be sent in a plain brown envelope addressed solely to my mum.



This is my mum's oldest sister, Aunty Peggy's, wedding in 1950 or 1951 in Paddington, London; mum would have been 18 or 19 at the time. Mum is on the far left in the plaid dress; next to Aunty Betty, (her confidante); behind Mum is Aunty Mary and next to her, Aunty Ita.

Much of what Julian puts in the song above 'The Ballad of Kathy Flynn' is true but not all. We don't know how, when and where mum and Julian's dad met. We don't know if it was a one night stand or a relationship. We think the asking to marry bit is right because it's stated in the documentation Julian gathered together in his search for mum. I think it highly possible that getting married would have entailed mum moving to India and that she probably didn't want to leave England - but we'll never know.

Julian went to drama school aged 16 and has spent the rest of his life performing, singing, playing and composing. You can see his bio here. It's very strange to think that when I was a student nurse in the early 1970s I used to watch 'Rainbow' - a children's programme on at midday - in the nurses lounge whilst eating my lunch. I must have seen Julian on TV dozens of times but never knew he was my brother!

By 2005, Julian's adoptive parents had died. Julian knew a lot about his birth mother and her subsequent family, but he couldn't out find where she lived. One evening, after a gig two fans came back stage to see him; he found out they ran a business tracing adopted children's birth parents and or families. Within two weeks they had found mum living in Kettering; and as the song says a phone call was made and mum wrote Julian a letter, but didn't want to meet.

I've read the letter she sent Julian and it is a beautiful letter. But, I still find it really difficult to understand (although I do, in many ways) why she didn't want to meet him. By 2005, mum knew she had COPD and that it would it kill her soon. As her children, we would have been delighted to meet Julian and would have welcomed him with open arms and would never have judged mum's actions. Mum must have known that about us as well as we were all very, very close. I'm just so sorry that they didn't get to meet because mum would have had almost four years left with Julian in her life.

You must be curious to know how Julian did eventually find us and I'm now coming to that part...

Julian discovered mum had died using 'Google' (God bless the internet - it's a marvellous invention but what a horrible way to find out about your mum's death). We had published a small notice of thanks in the local Kettering paper after the funeral in 2009. Julian waited for several years (I can only marvel at his restraint) and one day in 2013 he was on his way to the Derngate theatre in Northampton, with a group he was managing at the time. They knew his story and pointed out that Northampton was only 14 miles away from Kettering and as he knew my brother Mark still lived in the same house he and mum had moved to in 1999; he should, at least, drop a card through the door. So, he did!

When I rang him that morning in February 2013 we spoke for two hours! We arranged for Julian to come to Bedford the following weekend and we would all go out for a meal and get to know each other. So, we did!

4th March, 2013


 At my house looking at Julian's paperwork. Seated L to R:  Brother Julian, me, brother Mark and standing, brother Tony. Someone's cracked open the beers!
Image may contain: 5 people, indoor
After the meal we went to a local wine bar and had a few more beers and bottles of wine...that's my OH, Wesley on the far left.
Image may contain: 4 people, indoor 
Time to go home, lads!
  
It has been a wonderful experience meeting our 'new' brother. I have to admire his magnanimity and his generosity of spirit; he holds no hard feelings about his circumstances. He is not bitter that my mum wouldn't meet him. (I think I would have been, had it been me given up for adoption). We share a mother and although Julian was raised in the Home Counties in a nice middle class home and we were raised in the inner city, children of poor, working class immigrants, we have nothing but love and affection for each other.

We meet as often we can - Julian is always busy (thankfully, in his line of work). The one nice thing we were able to do for Julian was ask him to help us scatter mum's ashes (her ashes had been living in the sitting room for four years) later that same year; 2013. We videoed the ceremony - it was just laughter and jokes all the way.

RIP Mum - I'm sorry you had to live in such unenlightened times but your four children are united in their love for you.

24 comments:

  1. What an extrodinary story Vronni. Thank you for sharing it. We had a new nephew come into our lives recently, an unexpected bonus for my brother and the rest of us. And especially as he came with a partner and 2 little sweeties making my brother an instant grandfather! X

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    1. That is so lovely to hear and how lovely for your brother!

      Not all family secrets are bad...

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  2. It's like a movie, or a book - what an extraordinary story! I'm so glad you've recorded this here, and thank you for sharing it with us, your readers. I love the song - absolutely amazing. I'm so glad for your family that you were reunited!

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    1. Thank you, Sheila. I think all families are extraordinary in their own way.

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  3. Very nice song, Beautiful Old photo.

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  4. What an absolutely beautiful and touching story. I can really see the family resemblance between all of you. Your Mum was a gorgeous lady and you are like two peas. That is marvellous to have some "instant family". What a blessing! Xx

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    1. Thank you, Kelly! It is indeed a blessing,

      xx

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  5. True life - you can't make this stuff up. I'm so happy that your family has reunited after all this time and glad that the pressure to keep such secrets has lightened up these days. The song was wonderful. The family resemblance is so clear. And your mum, wow, yes, I watched the clip. She was a dedicated show-woman for sure. And gorgeous too.

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    1. Thank you, Melanie. Truth is most definitely stranger than fiction!

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  6. That's an amazing story.

    I've had some success tracing my own Anglo-Indian family. If Julian needs any help, the best place to start is with FIBIS' (Families In British India Society) website. The British Library has detailed copies of all records, but he'll need a reader's ticket to the India Collections Reading Room to access them. I'm very proud of my own AI heritage; Anglo-Indians have a long history of hard work on things like the railways, postal service, telegraph, police forces, and many of independent India's earliest Olympic medallists were AI too.

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    1. Thank you, Mim.

      I'll pass this on to Julian - he'll be very pleased...

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  7. What a lovely, lovely story and what a wonderful man you r brother sounds. Also how many cool shows has he been in?? I loved watching the clip of your Mum.

    Our story is not so happy sadly.

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    1. Thank you I'm sorry to hear that, Gisela. And yes, Julian is lovely and so are my other two brothers..

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  8. Oh what a lovely story,glad you found each other,I have something similar in that I never knew my Dad's father, must do a bit more digging on the internet. You still have the lovely skin that you had in the photos.

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    1. Thank you, Polly. Good luck with your digging!

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  9. What an incredible story Vronni, so glad it was a happy ending and thanks for sharing it with us. How fortunate you all are to have found each other. xx

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  10. What a story! So glad you chose to share this with your readers.

    This was such an interesting read. I'm so happy that you managed to meet your brother and everyone got along so well.

    That clip of your Mom was insane! What an unusual line of work.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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    1. Thank you, Suzanne.

      Yes - what a way to earn a living!

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  11. What a wonderful story, Julian really does sound like an incredible man and the family resemblance is remarkable. I love the lyrics of his song. So romantic.
    Your Mum was a beauty, what an interesting life she had. It does seem sad that she chose not to meet Julian but I suppose she must have had her reasons.
    xxx

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    1. Thank you, Vix.

      Julian is really, really lovely. I'm lucky I've got three fabulously kind brothers!

      xx

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  12. I've been completely absorbed reading your mom and brother's story!, such a shocking thing to find him!, really moving story and I think it's lovely that finally you've been together (even your mom didn't want to met Julian, but probably it would be too hard for her)
    besos

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  13. Thank you, Monika!

    It's a good job we live in more tolerant times...

    Besos

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  14. Wow, that's an amazing story Vronni. I'm sure it could be turned into a movie as it's full of love and surprises and is true of life at that time. Good for you that you're all close and are making up for lost time. I'm so happy for you all. Life is short and precious.
    Anna x

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    1. Thank you, Anna.

      That's really all we can do is to make up for lost time...

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