A Storyville documentary: Daisy Asquith tells the personal story of her mother's conception after a dance in the 1940s in Ireland, in an adventure in social and sexual morality.
Browse content similar to My Mother the Secret Baby. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
# I went down in the valley to pray
# Studying about them good old ways
# And you will wear the starry crown
# Oh, Lord, show me the way
# Oh, Mother, let's go down
# Let's go down
# Don't you want to go down?
# Oh, Mother, let's go down
# Down in the valley to the pray
# Well, I went down in the valley to pray
# Studying about them good old ways
# And you will wear
# The starry crown
# Oh, Lord, show me the way
# Oh, Father, let's go down
# Let's go down... #
-This is where they came.
Oh, my God.
I can't believe it. They came here...
They came here week after week, day after day,
spent loads of time here...
God, they've got a lot to confess in this place, haven't they?
Shall we go in?
You're not allowed in unless you're going to confession.
-It's one of the sacraments. Well, it's a sacrament.
So unless there's a priest ready to hear your confession,
you're not allowed in... Well, I don't think so.
It's very holy stuff, confessing.
Can't I just have a look in?
Anyway, it'll probably be locked.
This is outrageous.
You kneel on that little step,
-and there's a curtain.
You'll go to hell.
Are you really shocked that I looked inside the door?
I have been, you know, brought up in that weird way.
You cross yourself and then, if you die in the night,
you won't go to hell as long as you're crossing yourself.
It's a fear of God early on.
It goes really deep.
TRADITIONAL MUSIC PLAYS
'My mum was conceived after a dance in 1946
'to unmarried Catholic parents from County Clare.
'In that tiny moment, a wave of trouble and shame
'was unleashed on my family that would reverberate
'through three generations.
'My grandmother had to run away to England to have her baby
'and avoid the nuns and the workhouse.
'My mum was adopted by English Catholics
'and grew up happily in Stoke-on-Trent
'as a much-loved only child.
'She didn't meet her birth mother until she was 40.
'Her father is still a mystery.
'But we've come to County Clare to try and change that.'
You have to start, "Please, Father, I have sinned..."
Well, I used to do that. I used to say to Trudy, "What shall I say?"
She said, "Tell them you've been disobedient!
"Cos you always have!"
It's so funny that, for me,
the Catholicism is what caused the adoption in the first place,
yet it's been perpetuated throughout your life.
Yes, that's weird, isn't it?
-It is quite weird.
-And yet you're still slightly in the grip
-of it, because it freaks you out.
-I know. It does freak me out.
It grips you and you can't kind of get rid of it, really.
-Look, it's all about the mother and child, for God's sake.
If she'd kept me, her mother would have beaten her.
I was told...
..when Trudy and Les went to collect me from the...
..there was a priest... As well as the social workers,
there was a priest there, when they did the handover,
and the priest said...
.."This, um...girl has a family,
"a loving family,
"that know nothing about this
"and if they did know something about it,
"they would welcome this baby."
It really is making me feel strange.
I think I need to go.
-That's all right?
I didn't go INTO the confession box.
-Well, you opened the door.
-I just looked in.
You don't know, she might have wanted you then.
It would have been complicated, wouldn't it?
-Maybe she was hoping he would marry her.
-I'm sure she was.
Are you all right?
Yes. I need to get in the car and be safe.
-Weird, isn't it?
'The Aran Islands, the coast of County Clare.
'The little fields of the west enclosed in stone walls,
'and even richer meadows
'that each small, white farm having only a few acres...
'A land of piety and simple faith.
'Music in the common speech,
'and the lark in the clear air.'
'After the adoption, my grandmother returned to Ireland,
'where she married someone else quickly
'and had eight more children.
'She told no-one her secret.
'When she was in her 40s,
'my mum traced her half-siblings
'and we travelled to Dublin to meet them.
'I was 17 and developing an obsession
'with filming everything on a camcorder.
'My eight aunts and uncles welcomed us
'but apart from my younger cousin,
'they didn't want to be in my film.
'I sensed at the time the shame attached to our existence.'
I was excited to meet them. I was thrilled, really,
because they were first... Apart from my children,
they were the first relatives I'd ever met.
Relatives, if you haven't got any relatives,
become important to you.
'One of my aunts arranged for my mum to meet her mother,
'but the reunion didn't go well.
'Looking back, it's easy to see that they were both too traumatised
'by the situation to get along.'
We tried, but it didn't work out.
I think she didn't WANT to meet me.
I KNOW she didn't want to meet me.
And so we were a bit tense about that.
She felt that the whole thing had ruined her life,
and I can understand why she felt that.
She was very unhappy and...
..she had eight more children,
which is very hard, of course.
My father was not mentioned ever,
because I felt the tension when I asked questions.
So it was a mystery.
'The shame had stayed with my grandmother all her life
'and she couldn't shake it off.
'My mum never saw her again,
'and I never got to meet her.
'Her siblings were caught in the middle.'
'However much welcomed I was,
'I still felt a bit tense about things.'
I felt very nervous
because they'd grown up together
and I felt a bit on show,
and definitely an outsider, yeah.
'One or two of them made it clear that we wouldn't be welcome
'in County Clare, where they didn't want anyone
'to find out we existed.
'This forbidden place became an obsession for me,
'the missing part of my identity.
'20 years later, my mum and I have finally decided to disobey them,
'and we've come to Clare to try and find out who her father was.
'All we have to go on is a name - Tom Browne.'
Oh, yeah. Brownes in...
-They're still there.
Now we're going to get in trouble.
(He's pissed. He is pissed.)
-With an E at the end, yeah.
He's the postman.
Weren't they nice in that pub? Nice men.
I think I had a chance with the toothless one, actually.
He was older than me, wasn't he?
Why is it important to know who your father is?
Well, I think just to complete the picture, really.
Obviously, she was much more important,
but she didn't want to have a relationship
or even meet again...
..so I suppose it's partly because of that.
I think if I had had a relationship with her,
I wouldn't have bothered to go any further,
because, of course, she was furious with him,
even all those years later.
Of course. I mean, a big impact on her life.
'Now that my grandmother has died,
'she can no longer be hurt by the scandal,
'and one of her daughters, my mum's half-sister Siobhan,
'has agreed to help me make this film.'
I absolutely believe that you have a right to tell your story,
however you choose to,
and if people want to go along with you
and take part in the telling of that story,
hey, that's great.
-But it's not likely.
-That's the best of all possible worlds.
I mean, you know, if you could get everyone on board.
-That would be amazing.
-But it's a large family
with different people. Let me just...
It's funny, isn't it?
Because in our own lives,
we have, you know...we have been brave,
we have cocked a snook at all sorts of people
and we have believed that we had a right to do that,
and I still believe it
so it is surprising.
But...but, you know,
but it's not, at the same time, Daisy,
because, really, behind it, so very much,
is love and regard for Mam,
and...and wanting to protect her...
..because of how SHE would have felt.
In Catholic Ireland, it was a disgrace.
People tut-tutted and said, "Oh, how awful!"
Why did they do that?
Did it just rattle the bars of the cage
that the Catholic religion put us in?
You know? Was it that? That they were afraid that... I don't know.
Maybe people felt safe...
..living within the rules of the Catholic Church,
and they were afraid of the priests.
Maybe they were afraid they would be excommunicated.
Religion was all people had.
It was so interwoven with the fabric of the society
that everybody lived in that you could not get away from it.
It had an impact on every aspect of everybody's lives,
and its power is waning in Ireland
but it hasn't gone.
Everywhere in society, if people had known that
my mother had become pregnant before she got married,
and had a child, she would not have been able to hold her head up.
The reaction of what it would mean
went deep into everybody's bones,
and they went deeply into Mam's bones,
the shame of it, and she never, ever was able to acknowledge it.
I just think that it broke her heart.
'Western Ireland, County Clare.
'School is over for today.
'Down a rock-walled road, across the open countryside
'go an Irish boy and girl,
'home from school.
'Sean O'Reilly, Mary O'Reilly.
'And in his field over there, Mr O'Flaherty
'in his potato patch.
'Digging the dirt, loosening the soil around the growing potatoes.
'Home from school.
'To the O'Reilly farm.
'To the walled farmyard behind the whitewashed cottage,
'where Sean and Mary live in County Clare.'
Your great-grandmother made that.
You know why they had these?
Because jugs of milk were kept in the farm.
It was pre-fridge days.
It's to keep the flies and the dust off.
So I thought, "I'm going to put that out."
'But here's Kathleen, an older sister,
'come to make tea while Mother turns the griddle cake by the open fire,
'where the turf is burning. Good Irish griddle cake,
'crusty and fresh.
'Tea for Mary
'and tea for Sean.'
'Do you know, I'm not actually sure that her own mother knew about it.
'Her brothers and sister did,
'but I'm not actually certain that Granny knew.'
'Despite a sense of loyalty to her mother,
'my mum and I can no longer repress the urge
'to know more about her father.'
I'm trying to think about how I would feel
if I hadn't known my father.
I would want to know my father.
It would be as though I didn't know myself
until I knew who he was,
even if it...if I ended up thinking,
"I do not approve of you. I do not like you.
"I think you're a whatever."
I like...I like finding things out.
I don't like mysteries. I don't like not being sure of what's going on.
You kind of wonder where you've come from,
I suppose, in a way.
Like a cuckoo, really.
In the nest.
What do you know about him, Daisy?
-Nothing at all?
-Nothing AT ALL?
-Just his name?
-That's all I know.
That's all you know.
Do you know anything?
I don't. All I know is what Mam said,
and she did say that that was his name,
and also, that he was a farmer...um...
I think he wasn't a farmer -
I think he would have been a farming labourer.
But he must have belonged in the district.
And how she got to know him, well, I don't know.
I mean, the night the deed was done,
it was at a local dance, or after a local dance.
And I know that he was a fair bit older than her.
If, say, she was about 25,
I think he would have been about 40.
She always said he took advantage of her,
and it was easy to do that because women were brought up
to do what men asked them to do.
-And she WAS around 25, wasn't she?
And, at 25 in those days, you were on the shelf.
Oh, Lord, yes. Erm...
-So, I wonder.
I mean, what if, and this is an utter "what if", and I don't know at all,
and I'm surmising, what if he paid her attention,
eventually to the point of having intercourse with her?
And the fact that she was, to all intents and purposes,
on the shelf, probably would have made how much more vulnerable.
'Siobhan shows me a photo of my grandmother,
'the first one I've seen of her as a young woman.'
It looks like my mum, doesn't it?
-Pat looks more like Mam than any of us.
Actually, do you know something, Daisy?
That's part of the reason that the family haven't wanted Pat to come.
Because, as I have said before, as soon as she puts one foot
inside the county, everybody is going to know whose daughter she is.
Do you know why I'm a bit braver than you might have expected?
It's because I'm getting older.
And time kind of runs out, doesn't it?
-I think we're going to meet someone who knows...
-I have a feeling, too.
I have a weird feeling.
-There's just that many people around.
-In this pub.
I think someone's going to...
After a while, when we've had a few drinks and spent a bit of money,
we can ask for the telephone directory, can't we?
-Good idea, yeah.
-I really want to do that.
'And that's when my mum meets Martin.'
You're so naughty, to buy us drinks.
You will let us get you one.
Just say yes.
Do you know of anybody...a postman called Browne, from Kilkee?
-No, that doesn't ring a bell?
Yeah, Brownes in Moyasta, exactly.
Oh, well, those are the ones I'm probably looking for.
Well, it's Moyasta where my mother came from,
but she met my father in Kilkee.
What were they like? What kind of family were they?
That makes sense, doesn't it?
I'm afraid it does. I'm afraid it does.
Now, I'm glad you're being honest. I want honest.
# That's how it is with me
# And you'll always be
# The only love I ever knew
# I'll forget many things in my lifetime
But my darling, I won't forget you
# My darling, I won't forget you. #
THEY SPEAK OVER EACH OTHER
Hallo. My name's Pat, and I think that we might be related.
There is Brownes out in Killimer.
But everybody has blue eyes, don't they? Yours look greener.
I was adopted many years ago and I'm looking for my family.
And I wondered if you were a relative of mine, I suppose.
-My grandmother, she got pregnant outside marriage.
-Oh, yeah, right.
How would people respond to that?
I was adopted many years ago and I'm looking for my family.
I thought that maybe we were related, but maybe we're not.
There isn't another Thomas Browne?
Because I think Tom Browne is MY father.
Well, he IS my father.
Well, thank you very much.
-Look, look. That's a twosie, or something.
What do you call it when you...?
Oh, you mean a selfie?
-A double selfie.
-A double selfie! Ha-ha!
So you were born exactly nine months after Valentine's Day.
So it would've been a Valentine's dance.
'She was brought up so strictly.
'I can't believe she would have done it with somebody
'she'd just met at a dance.
'I mean, I just can't believe she would do that.'
In West Clare, a culture of secrecy and keeping up appearances prevails.
The stationmaster at Moyasta is one of the brave few
willing to reveal more.
Pat's father, he got her mother pregnant, they say, after a dance.
And this was in 1946.
Is that right?
-So they all did it?
-They were all doing it?
They were all doing it in the hay barn?
And some were lucky and some weren't?
Did a lot of girls disappear at that time, to go and have their babies?
'He doesn't think either the postman
'or the so-called "odd" Brownes are the right ones.'
'With directions to the farm, only a lack of courage is stopping us.
'We still feel shame and guilt about coming to Clare
'without the blessing of some of my mum's half-siblings.
'I wonder if the Brownes will want to keep us secret, too.'
'Johnny Browne says he had an Uncle Tom who died in the '70s,
'and even though he never heard of his uncle having a child,
'the dates match up, and he seems pretty sure by the look of us
'that we've got the right Tom.
'The shock is a real one for Johnny.
'In a place where respectability has long come first,
'his family name might be sullied by these illegitimate cousins.
'But he and his wife, Mary, make us welcome.
'They strike me as people who wouldn't shut the door to anyone.'
Oh, have you? Oh, wonderful.
-So, you'd be first cousins, then, Mum?
-You'd be first cousins?
-Yes, we're first cousins, yes.
-It's very close, isn't it?
-It is close.
Is that your aunt?
Aunt, yes. That's right, yes.
Oh, this is wonderful! Oh!
So that's Patrick Browne?
He's very tall as well, isn't he, by the look of him?
Oh, I see.
-He's named after his uncle?
That's Tom there, now. That's Tom, that's him.
'Seeing a photo of Tom is overwhelming.
'I can see my mum in her father's face.
'Johnny explains that he left Ireland for America
'in the late '40s.
'He went to live with his elder sister, May, in New York
'and worked as a baker.'
Was he...was he...was he not one to be settled down?
Was he wild? Was he wild?
Being as most people tend to get married, don't they,
did you ever say to each other, I wonder why he doesn't get married?
SPORT COMMENTARY ON RADIO
Love the photos.
That was May Browne, Tom's sister.
Can you see?
SPORT COMMENTARY CONTINUES
The guy in the pub, Mary, he said, "Oh, those two are poets."
What kind of songs?
Can we hear it?
It's paused, isn't it?
CD: # There's a village and fair
# That no place can compare
# It lies between Doonbeg and Kilkee
# And wherever you'll roam
# There is no place like home
# My Ballard, you're so dear to me
# So I hope that some day
# I will go back to stay
# In Ballard, the place that I love
# If only to greet
# All the old friends I'd meet
# At the chapel, the shop and the pub. #
I can definitely see it.
'Everybody wonders who on earth they are, don't they? As they grow up.
'And if you don't have anybody you're related to,
'you think it much more. It's much more of a mystery.'
Do you think you're like them?
Yes, I do.
I feel like them.
I feel I could switch myself into things there.
'Tom had been to Australia in his 20s.
'And on his way home, during the Second World War,
'his ship was torpedoed.
'He told Johnny he had to beat off sharks to survive.
'He returned to Ireland penniless
'and my mum was born a few years later,
'before he set off again, for New York.'
That's the photo that made me realise he was my father.
When I was a little girl, my face looked like that
and I thought, "Ah, so it is him."
Because there's always a little doubt in your mind,
not with the mother, but with the father, isn't there?
That's him when he was older.
Yes, that's a good one of the ears. Are my ears like that?
-Hard to say.
-In other words, no!
Well, yours don't stick out quite as much.
Yeah. Looks dishy there.
And then that's when he's quite a bit older.
I think he's gorgeous.
-Yeah, do you?
-I think he's gorgeous.
-Yeah. He is dishy.
-Is that a bit wrong?!
Mary said he was like the Elvis of West Clare!
-Well, that's nice.
-Who wouldn't want to be the Elvis of West Clare?
-There's the Elvis. He looks like Elvis there.
-Do you think so?
-I don't see Elvis, actually.
But I think he looks handsome.
Oh, and his shipwreck.
He was shipwrecked and clung to a single plank, apparently,
for a long time.
And managed to survive.
-That would help to attract the girls as well.
Well, that's what she said,
that he'd been all round the world, he had lots of stories.
Someone else told me he had so many interesting stories,
because of his...the way he lived his life and the way he'd travelled.
'I begin to spend time with Johnny, hoping to get to know
'my grandfather, Tom, through him and the ways of West Clare.
'Even the cows are saying, "Who the hell is that?" '
INDISTINCT RACING COMMENTARY
APPLAUSE AND COMMENTARY MINGLE
'The house Tom lived in in the '40s is a ruin now.'
Oh, my God.
'But Johnny shows me a cottage restored to the old way of life.
'He's proud of the traditions that he fears are dying out.'
-You are. You're losing part of our history.
'Over the summer, we become family.
'Around this time,
'I get a letter from one of my aunts on my grandmother's side.
'She's not happy to hear I've been filming in Clare.
'I read it to my mum.'
"You are not welcome to use my home for the purposes
"of preparations for, or in the process of filming
"or making your forthcoming documentary about your story.
"To be crystal clear, Daisy, I hereby ban you
"from trespassing on my property, land.
"You do not have my consent to stay or film there,
"and I take any invasion of my privacy, as such, as trespass,
"and will treat this accordingly."
And then she starts talking about solicitors.
Well, doesn't surprise me. I mean...
There's a lot of jargon involved, isn't there?
-Well, she doesn't want me to do it.
-She's just looked it up, hasn't she?
I understand that, she doesn't want me to make a film.
-It's aggressive, isn't it?
-But what do you expect?
I think that's the problem I've had, really, is...
It kind of, and I'm quoting here,
it's kind of like a double rejection,
that every time anybody says, "You can't go here,"
like, "You can't go to Clare,"
I...well, partly it makes me want to go all the more, but partly...
I...feel, "Oh, yeah, I'm not wanted," and not being wanted
has always been a big problem for me.
For obvious reasons.
Anybody in my situation would tell you the same, it's just...
You need to be wanted.
The thing about shame is, it kind of...sticks to you, doesn't it?
Yes, it does.
It's a matter of being the product of someone else's disaster.
And...anybody who's had a baby says, "Ohhh, she had to give her baby away,
"it doesn't bear thinking about."
It was a terrible situation for her.
And they are protecting her.
'Most of our family are on the fence over this.
'But Siobhan is bravely supporting me.'
It was Mam's story and she chose to keep it quiet.
And that was respected while she was alive.
She's not here now to say, "You may not tell my story."
It boils down to that.
That nobody has a right... to shut other people up.
-Aren't you scared what trouble you will cause, though?
But I'm just going to have to stand up and take it!
No, I will, because I think it's the right thing to do, I think.
I think, I really believe you have a right to go there,
to be there, to see it.
If... Do you know,
if somebody cut me out of my heritage that way,
I would be so angry.
I really would be so angry.
I know everyone in my family would be furious
and they would have plenty to say about it.
-You lot have been awfully quiet!
What was your first thought when you saw us?
Did you worry that we might not be telling the truth?
There's a lot of shame around it, isn't there?
So would you not tell people that we were Tom's,
would you want to keep that quiet?
Just for now, yeah?
Or making a documentary about it?
-That's how I feel, too.
My father, yes. Of the Brownes, yes.
IRISH JIG PLAYS
'Can one night in the hay barn really be so shocking
'that we have to hide forever?
'Just when I'm running out of leads to Tom,
'Johnny digs up an old letter from his Uncle Stephen
'who was also in New York.'
-Who's the Big Yank? Tom?
-The Big Yank!
Do you remember these pictures. He sent photographs that I showed you.
'Thinking of the bunch of kids in the letter,
'our cousins who'd be the same age as me now, I asked Johnny
'if he'd consider going to New York with me to try and meet them.
'It's a bit of a long shot,
'as he's never been further than Limerick before.
'But it might tell us more about Tom.'
Do you think it's a bit too daunting?
What do you think, Johnny?
Johnny, how will you get on the plane?
Did you ever want to go on a plane?
'Johnny's never had a passport before and never been on a train,
'let alone a plane.
'New York will be as mind-blowing to him
'as it would have been to my grandfather 60 years ago.'
-That should be fine. Fine.
MACHINE: Welcome to the picture kiosk.
Touch the picture and then touch the edit button.
Your picture has been automatically enhanced.
Touch the picture you want to save. When you have finished, touch "done".
These are the different edits you can make on your picture.
Your picture has been automatically enhanced.
Touch the picture you want to save. When you have finished, touch "done".
When are you off, Mary?
-The start of your trip!
That's the precious passport, then?
Oh, really, really?
-Oh, yeah, that's a better picture, isn't it?
Oh, fantastic. Oh, how exciting.
That's made it kind of feel real.
'Tom would have gone to New York by boat, which took three weeks.
'In the '40s and '50s, thousands of Irish emigrated in this way,
'looking for a living,
'or, in Tom's case, running away.
'The shipping log shows that he was headed
'for his sister May's house in the Bronx,
'leaving my pregnant grandmother behind.'
Do you think she would have been hoping he might marry her?
Daisy, I just don't know. And no-one can tell us now.
All I do know is that she was so massively angry with him.
And you've heard...about that?
You know, I could tell you something here that was not very pleasant.
-Are you OK with it?
When she did tell him, he sent her a five pound note in an envelope.
And that was it.
Cut her dead.
And yet, OK, now...in fairness... maybe HE couldn't deal with it.
Maybe he couldn't deal with... the dent to his social standing
if it got about that he had made... my mother pregnant.
Because he relied on... You don't think about these aspects of things.
He relied on everyone around to give him work.
What if they decided that he was a disgrace
and HE should be pushed out of the community?
What would happen to him?
I don't know.
Instead of assuming that the man was bad,
which is how he has been presented to us,
maybe there was another side to it.
Maybe he couldn't cope either and he didn't know what to do
and so he did that and it had that impact on my mother,
it absolutely devastated her.
'My mum decides not to come with us,
'her courage about the filming a little shaken by the letter.
'But she still supports my efforts to find out more about Tom.'
This situation has set me back a bit.
It upsets me, and I've had to think long and hard
before taking part in the film, but I do feel that...
-it has to be said.
It can't be shoved under carpets and...nailed under linoleum.
You've got to know, you can't go... living in ignorance
and not knowing what's really going on.
It's so important to know.
Suppose he's mentally ill, or... unpleasant.
Or a drunk!
I mean, I imagine he had other children as well.
-You kind of wonder what he got up to when he went to New York.
You're coming back, aren't you?
I don't know! THEY LAUGH
-Bit different to County Clare, isn't it?
CAR HORN BLARES
It's fascinating, isn't it?
-You've never been in a tunnel?
What do you think Tom would have thought when he landed here?
Yeah, it was already... skyscrapers and...cars and...
-You can find some quiet little places to go.
You pull it out like that and put it in the tea.
You pull out the thing here.
'It's starting to dawn on us
'what a culture shock New York must have been for Tom.'
SHE SINGS "DREAMS" BY FLEETWOOD MAC
# I see the crystal visions
# I keep a vision to myself... #
# It's only me who wants to
# Wrap around your dreams
# And have you any dreams you'd like to sell?
# Dreams of loneliness like a heartbeat, drives you mad... #
I think he takes after his Uncle Tom.
'Finding similarities between Tom and Johnny and I is irresistible.'
He looked like...
'After the initial shock of the skyscrapers and noise,
'New York City has an exhilarating effect on Johnny.'
# So in dreams I love to ramble
# Down the village street
# To meet the boys and girls gathered there
# And we sing the good old songs
# Telling of old Ireland's wrong
# Around the chapel gates in Corraclare. #
'Tom had lost his home
'but he would have gained a bittersweet freedom.
'Being in the bright lights seems to have liberated Johnny, too,
'and he starts to talk about Tom more freely than before.'
And they kind of, you know...
He taught you that?
The hip contact?
You'll be taking after that yourself!
My God! He must have dated hundreds of women.
TRADITIONAL IRISH MUSIC
'After some searching on the internet,
'I'd found a great-nephew of Tom's,
'our cousin Steve,
'who still lives in New York.
'Steve and I are getting on well on Facebook.
'He's a very modern man,
'a computer programmer and music producer,
'who's just married his boyfriend.
'I wonder what he and Johnny will have in common.
'He agrees to come and meet us the following day.'
-I just feel a little bit nervous now.
-Yeah, but I'm...
I'm really looking forward to meeting him.
-I was really nervous coming to see you!
Of course I was.
My cousin, Johnny Browne.
From my grandma, Mary Browne.
First I started reading your Facebook message and I'm thinking,
"Oh, this is somebody who's doing identity theft or something!"
-"Trying to get information out of me."
But then when you sent the picture
I said, "No, this is legitimate."
You know, they're this very Old World couple.
-They have...horses and cows and a farm.
I milked a cow once with the machine.
Worst experience of my life.
'Steve's grandma May was Tom's elder sister,
'who came to live in New York when she was 21.
'She married another Irish Catholic
'and they brought up their sons in the Bronx.
'He takes us to the house where his grandma lived
'what was seen as a respectable life.
'It was Tom's first home in New York.
'But he wouldn't have dared tell his sister his secret.'
What a lovely house, though.
And at the time it would have been considered probably enormous.
But I don't think that anything up here was...
was necessarily very expensive.
My brother, now, he had the address off by heart, you know.
And I had 7 Mount Vernon Avenue, where he went later on.
-Oh, after this.
-Yeah, do you know where that is?
-I don't know...
-I can look it up.
-It's not far from here, I think.
I'll plug the address into the GPS when we take off
and we'll take a ride over.
And if it starts to look dangerous when we get there,
we'll turn around!
So, Johnny, what did you make of Steve?
But you're not like that.
How come you're so, like, you know, accepting and laid-back
and everything about...
you know, people being illegitimate or being gay
or being, like, too...?
Do you think that Tom had that quality?
I know it sounds crazy to you,
her family would like to still keep it secret.
And no shame to the father?
Well, not really.
It's not the same. It's not the same.
But also, you know, his life
wasn't affected by it like hers was.
No, of course not. It never is.
-But you can't abandon a woman that you've...
-But they think of it as...
-..you've gotten pregnant.
This place is not quite as romantic, is it?
No, it's a little sad.
But apparently it's very easy to pick up women!
-Oh, that was number 11.
-Yeah, so 7...
For some reason I'm getting a little deja vu.
Maybe my father used to drink there.
He might have drunk there with Tom, then.
-Oh, my goodness.
Now it's an off...
It's a church.
-It's a church!
-Now it's a church.
-If it was Tom's...
-They've purified his love nest!
-I can't believe it.
-His "love nest"!
-It would have been an apartment.
-perhaps he'd have lived upstairs.
But he couldn't have lived above a church, surely.
-Oh, my God, he's probably seducing the nuns!
-The nuns, yeah.
That's amazing, isn't it?
I think that's the side door.
They're saying Mass or something inside.
'The reality of Tom's life in New York was far from romantic.'
So you thinking of moving to New York, now?
No, you're not!
No, he's not.
THEY TALK AT ONCE
Yeah, I wonder if that came from some little bit of guilt about,
You know? About maybe what he'd caused.
-But you know, it was an accident.
-What could he do?
It was either do what he did, or marry her, right?
SLOW FIDDLE TUNE PLAYS
'It's hard to be angry with Tom when his mistake cost him so dearly.
'Although he wouldn't have suffered like my grandmother did,
'he was in exile in New York.
'His so-called sin prevented him
'returning to Ireland until his 60s...
'..when he retired to a tiny cottage near Johnny's farm.
'He died alone from a heart attack at the age of only 71.
'Two days before I was born.'
INDIAN MUSIC PLAYS ON RADIO
'The power of the Catholic Church
'over both my grandparents' lives infuriates me.
'As we head home I decide to celebrate
'their night in the hay barn...
'..and reject the way religion and society bullied them.'
'Johnny's brother, Stephen, has been
'over from London looking after the farm while we were going.
'He tells us there's been a lot of people calling in
'and asking questions about me and Tom.
'Our secret is out.'
-Know what I mean?
That's a lovely thing to say, Steve(!)
What, you mean, while we've been gone, everyone's talking?
-Well, what are they saying about us?
-They know who I am now, do they?
-Is that OK with you, Johnny?
-It is, yeah.
Well, that's it now, then, it's out.
I'm glad it's come out now. We don't have to hide.
You've nothing to hide.
No-one will give you any bother, though, will they?
-Why should they?
It's kind of a relief.
'Secrets have a way of burning away at you until they finally surface.
'My poor grandmother even kept her pregnancy from her new fiance
'until the very last minute.'
Do you know how my father found out about it?
The adoption went through around the same time
as Mam and Dad got married, and guess what?
The nuns sent a telegram
and it got mixed up with all the wedding telegrams
and was opened and read.
And so they fell out on their wedding day.
And she suffered at the hands of her husband,
at the hands of her... her mother-in-law,
at so many people's hands.
You know, the whole world might as well have known about it
for the pain and suffering that my mother went through.
And then we suffered, of course we did,
because they hated each other, and they never pulled together,
and we got...you know, we fell in the middle of all of that.
Why it is that we don't feel so cross with society
and people who stand in judgment...
All this...religious prejudice had the most terrible effect,
but also there was a fallout with...future generations.
Certainly in my mother's case.
But when we went to services in Ireland
there was a lovely atmosphere, I thought.
Well, you're still a bit taken up with it.
But did you not think it was a nice... Like when they did the dance that time?
But it's responsible for... a lot of heartbreak.
That's for sure. We know. First-hand we know, don't we?
Dammit! That's what I should, and do, feel angry about.
Are you to hand...judgment and morality for your life
into the hands of someone you perhaps don't even know,
or who doesn't have the sense, the background,
the intelligence or the heart to treat it as it ought to be?
'A few weeks later Johnny agreed to meet up with Siobhan and my mum.
'A brave refusal of the shame
'both families have felt for over 60 years.'
I'm just looking at that picture up there of the ship,
and thinking about Tom being shipwrecked.
So what is that story, Daisy?
Johnny is the one who told us that he was shipwrecked.
So what happened?
Standing on a plank of timber?!
That's why he was standing on the plank.
-My God. My God.
-Amazing story, isn't it?
-We kind of can't help thinking...
-How precarious is existence!
-Yes! Precarious, exactly.
Mary said he was a bit like the Elvis of West Clare.
-So many women!
Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear.
Bit of a devil.
-But a handsome devil.
-It tells you a bit about him.
Ah, sure, what's the point of it?
I just don't see the point.
You know, it's human nature, it's a story as old as time.
What's the point in apportioning blame?
If you do that you get stuck in... and you don't move on.
And when you know where you come from,
and you know all your relations,
they all bring a light into that room.
And you know all about yourself.
You know, no-one should be hidden away.
FOLK MUSIC PLAYS
In this funny and moving documentary, acclaimed film-maker Daisy Asquith tells the very personal story of her mother's conception after a dance in the 1940s on the remote west coast of Ireland.
By exploring the repercussions of this act, Daisy and her mother embark on a fascinating and emotional adventure in social and sexual morality. Her grandmother, compelled to run away to have her baby in secret, handed the child over to 'the nuns'. Daisy's mum was eventually adopted by English Catholics from Stoke-on-Trent. Her grandmother returned to Ireland and told no-one. The father remained a mystery for another 60 years, until Daisy and her mum decided it was time to find out who he was.
Their attempts to find the truth make raw the fear and shame that Catholicism has wrought on the Irish psyche for centuries. It leads Daisy and her mum to connect with a brand new family living an extraordinarily different life.