It is often said that the child is a result of nature and nurture, and so I suppose to understand the nurture bit I have to describe my family. I would not say it was unusual, though a bit of dysfunction is always useful in making a good archaeologist. I was born to Eleanor Alice Connolly (nee Donaldson) and James Connolly on the 20th December 1965. My mother was shall we say a late bloom, having lived a life that was in some ways overshadowed by her Mother and Father and their expectations of her looking after them and my uncle Archie who had severe learning difficulties (as we love to call it now) – It is such a hangover from Victorian Values, where the female child was expected to stay and become almost a servant to the family. She did serve in the WRENs and the Nursing Corp during the War (more on some weird and whacky tales in a later episode) however, her place was with the family in Lee Crescent, Portobello, Edinburgh.
She met my father when she was 38 and was married at 39, he was a train driver with British Rail and had been married before. And so, at the age of 41 (which is quite late for a female, especially back then) she gave birth to my fathers 3rd son. He already had two sons, Jeffery and James, and as I later discovered (and I mean much later) two daughters called Janet and Janice (?) … so as he was called James… best thing was to carry on the tradition and call me… er… J? J? nah…. David!
Originally I was to be called Alison, due to my Mother being convinced that I was female… and so when I popped out (well… to be honest I had got comfy and so had to be taken out by Caesarean!) they had no name for me, and so, as the nurses walked the Simpson Memorial Hospital in Edinburgh they sang Once in Royal David’s City they found my name! Thank goodness it was not Good King Wenceslas! But I digress!
At that point we were living in Wester Hailes (a now less than.. cough… salubrious area of Edinburgh)…. However, the death of my grandfather, falling off a tram 2 weeks before my birth, allowed my ever dutiful Mother to return to Portobello and Hamilton Terrace and a three- story Terraced house (costing a whopping 5 grand!) there to live with Granny Donaldson, Mother, Father, James, Jeffrey and Me. I was picked on quite a bit as I grew up, with my half-brothers nicking money off granny and blaming me, or another favourite was to teach me swear words and send me into Granny’s realm (the top floor) to get a whack round the head for being foul-mouthed!
My father was obviously not happy at the plans he had for my mother to look after his sons as this was spoiled by my birth. I can still remember the shouting and arguments… It is aged 6 that I remember a trauma that has still to leave me fully.
I returned home from school at the Royal High School, with my satchel over my back. I heard the shouting and thumps and ran to the back of the house, where I saw my father throw my mother into a corner, a fist raised and a look of fear on her face, I ran at him and jumped on his back, with tears streaming down my face, shouting to ‘leave her alone’… I still remember as he reached over his back and picked me up by my satchel, with me attached and easily ripped off his back, I dangled in his hands and with a flick I was thrown aside. The wall was a useful device to stop me going too far, though it did hurt a bit. Once again I see where my desire to fight for right and on behalf of those that can’t defend themselves has stemmed from. Like the bullies I later tackled, and even the violence that was unleashed in my teenage years – I only tackled those that I felt were unjust. Perhaps there is a lesson for those that pick on others still… BAJR is based on a boy who will fight even if he can’t win, a six year old that tackles a man, because it is the right thing to do.
Soon after my Father left, trying to take half the house, which would have been a disaster, however my indominatible Granny stepped in and bought him out… putting us into debt, but freeing us from him.
It has taken nearly my whole life to forgive him, and to learn myself what he must have suffered, but there is never an excuse for domestic violence…. My mother never deserved that. Tales of my father… perhaps that is another post to come!
So there you have it… at the age of seven I have a dead Grandfather, an absent father (oh the stigma of divorce back in the 70s …ouch it hurt!) a Solid (and quite stout) Scots Granny, a Mother who must work all hours to keep us stable.. two brothers who I never see and two sisters I never knew about until I was 32! I was brought up then by two women, and had a strong view on right and wrong… I lived in a big house, was loved by both my Granny and Mother… what could possibly go wrong now!