Clair Wills’ weekend essay “Secret Histories” (Life & Arts, January 13) comes to mind Letter to Louisethe book by actress Pauline Collins in which she describes being in a mother and baby home in London and giving up her little Louise for adoption.
Her description of the house and the Catholic nuns who ran it would seem very different from that in Wills’ article, being positive and appreciative and even singling out one of the nuns for special thanks: Sister Teresa.
I learned this last June at the funeral of Sister Teresa (she was my late wife’s sister). I was very struck by the story of a 19-year-old young woman from a well-off family in Cork – this is Ireland in 1949 – who decided that it was better to devote her life to trying to help others in the service of God.
Eventually she persuaded her reluctant father to bring her to London where she joined an order of nuns, later qualifying as a midwife and serving in that role for many years in the household they ran.
When I met her a few years ago, she seemed happy with her life and was now busy running a care home in Dublin. To me, she seemed like a rock of common sense, very practical and helpful and clearly with a strong religious faith. I thought, and think, that she was quite admirable.
Its story is a sort of “secret history” which generally remains unknown. This can make it difficult to establish a balanced overall picture of organizations such as mother and baby homes and lead to incorrect impressions.
To avoid this, in my own case, I now intend to read Letter to Louise.
Professor Michael Ryan