What's in a name?


In 1978 I give birth to my daughter in a mother and baby home in Cork. Six months earlier when I arrive in Bessboro I’ve been given a house name, not my own but a name to use for the duration. I leave Bessboro with my daughter. On her eighteenth birthday I wonder if any of my friends’ children will go searching for them. Four years later I begin writing the story of a mother and re-found daughter travelling to the home where the daughter has been born whilst the mother tells the tale. A year later I travel around Cork searching for the three girls who’ve been my friends in Bessboro and what I find disturbs me so much I feel my mind fragmenting. I decide I don’t want to write a book that feeds the public desire for painful lives but know I want to create something. A year later, sitting on the side of my bed as I bend down to zip up my boots, I remember: As the child of Irish immigrants, living in Streatham, London, I have grown up beside an old fenced-in building. My mother says its called the Magdalen Home. Four months later in July 2002 I’m sitting in Lambeth Archive and Minet Library in Brixton reading through the history of the first Magdalen Home for Penitent Prostitutes which opened in 1758. In the inductions for new penitents I read: “If they are desirous of concealing themselves, they have liberty to assume a feigned name”. In one sentence the past steps 244 years forward and meets me in the present.


Madame Geneva plays at the Lyric Theatre from the 18th - 28th May 2017. Click here for tickets and further information.

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