Mick Ord: Adoption, Discovery and The Power of Memory

February 16, 2023 01:03:50
Mick Ord: Adoption, Discovery and The Power of Memory
The Plastic Podcasts
Mick Ord: Adoption, Discovery and The Power of Memory

Feb 16 2023 | 01:03:50

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Journalist, Media Consultant, Producer and Podcaster, Mick Ord is a legend among the broadcast press of Merseyside. A former head of BBC Radio Merseyside, he has covered such events as Heysel, Hillsborough, the Warrington bomb and Liverpool’s successful bid for Capital of Culture. He was NUJ Regional Journalist of the Year in 1990 for his…
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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:22 How are you doing? I'm Doug Dni and you are listening to the Plastic Podcasts Tales of the Irish Diaspora. Well, it's 2023 in case you hadn't noticed. And wherever or whenever you are, I trust it's not too late to wish you a happy New Year, even if it's 2024 in your neck of the calendar. We are ringing the changes here at Plastic Towers offering you a whole new approach to the podcast experience. Fear not plastic Pedestal is still with us. However, this year, instead of rushing you along with tranches of six episodes per series, one per week, we're spreading ourselves out to one per month each and every month with perhaps the occasional special just to tide you over the hold of this. Revolve around the sun. Yep. It's you and us kid going the full nine yards in the full 12 months. First up is a friend of the podcasts and the powerhouse behind Mick Ad Media, the one and only well, Mick Ad a consultant, journalist, broadcaster, and podcaster. Mick's work in the northwest has covered Heisel Hillsborough, the Warrington bomb, and Liverpool successful bid for European capital of culture. In 1990, he was one of the N U J's Journalists of the Year for his documentary on the Cheshire Regiments time in South Amar. And he also has a personal highly touching story of his own to tell, but more of these later. For now, I find Mick staring at a pile of palm sized paper squares as I ask him. How are you doing? Speaker 2 00:01:49 Very well. Thanks Doug. Nice to see you. I'm doing a marketing campaign shortly and I've got my own Mick Media branded teabag that I'm gonna send to unsuspecting potential clients. So it'll either be a huge success or it'll fall flat on its ass. I don't know. I'll report back Speaker 1 00:02:09 Mick old media teabags. We've got a story brewing Speaker 2 00:02:11 <laugh>. Exactly. Yes. Hold on. Thank you very Speaker 1 00:02:15 Much. Good job. We got the job. Thank you very much. As Speaker 2 00:02:17 This sound Speaker 1 00:02:18 Looks like being gamekeeper turned poacher. Speaker 2 00:02:20 Yeah, it is a bit, but I, I find that I use some of the skills I learned from being, um, a journaler reporter, producer, manager, um, for people on the other side of the fence now as it were, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I use a lot of the same skills. I'm a big believer in, um, not a very good follower of this dictum, but less is more say what you gotta say and then get out. But I don't, I don't follow that and I won't follow that now yet. Okay. Didn't Speaker 1 00:02:49 Have a small palpitation there. <laugh>. Um, do you find that when you watch people being interviewed and so forth and there are certain car crash interviews that I can think of? No names, no Pat, no sweating. Go. If you just stopped there, you would've been fine. Speaker 2 00:03:06 Yeah, definitely, definitely. I mean, I do a lot of media training, uh, now, and one of the aspects of crisis communications is exactly that. And the first, or one of the first things I say to my clients if I'm training them, whether, you know, whether they're private or public sector, is don't follow politicians. Even if you really think a p a politician's really good on the tele, don't copy them. Cause it's a different agenda, a different skillset and a different audience probably. And don't get into that. Say what you've gotta say in the best way that you can and just, you know, it's a cliche, but just be authentic and just treat it like a conversation and then you'll get your message over in a powerful and effective way, hopefully, you know? Speaker 1 00:03:54 Has the definition of journalists changed? Speaker 2 00:03:58 Oh, um, I don't know whether the definition has, um, even when I was knocking around, um, doing stories in the newsroom, we used to have, um, you know, one of my colleagues used to say to me, we're just processes of news now. We don't go out and get stories. Um, you know, I am told that in the fifties, sixties and seventies, maybe in the early eighties, who don't know, journalists were far more, if you're working in a busy patch like Liverpool, you've got stories coming in all the time from the police, the fire, the ambulance, the council, you know, you were never short of stories, but in some other parts of the country you were. And so that fostered a, um, a the skill of digging stuff out. And ma the stories I got the most pleasure from personally and as a manager, well, where were, when we would dig stories out, you'd be chatting to someone in the pub or on the bus or whatever, and you got a good one that way. Speaker 2 00:05:05 But they, even then, they were, they were the best ones, but they were the hardest to get because you've gotta, if you don't know someone, you've gotta take 'em into the confidence and then they might just let something spill. That's a really good tale. Um, and I think there's even less of that kind of thing going on now than there was 20, 30 years ago. So I think the balance has switched towards processing, um, even more, which is a shame. But there are some, there are some notable exceptions to that. I think tortoise me, you do a great job. I think they're good. And there are a handful of other, um, you know, the Sunday Times investigations team do some really good stuff people in various parts of the BBC do. Um, but, but to make a, a sweep in generalization, and you can always find exceptions to this, I think there's more processing now than there ever was before. And less creativity and less digging. And if you d if you dig in, sometimes you're, you're not gonna find, um, a jewel in the hole. To use a weird metaphor. You're not gonna find, uh, a golden, a golden story. So then you, you know, you but boss might say, well, you've wasted two or three hours on that, you know, but that's what you need to do to get the good stuff you need, you, it's not a wasted time. It's, it's hard work. Speaker 1 00:06:28 Have you always been someone to search for stories? Speaker 2 00:06:31 Yeah, yeah, I have. Yeah. Yeah, I have. And I wonder, as a kid, I, I, I've been, I was thinking the other day that, uh, like we used to go to the local library, mean mom would take us to the library and, you know, I remember getting stuffed that I wasn't interested in cuz she badged me into getting them. And then the, the, one of the first times I got a book out in the primary school that it w you know, I mean, I, I mean before the age of 12 was one about Fleet Street and it was about newspapers and it had about the Daily Mail and The Guardian and that. And I just thought, oh, and I read this book a couple of times, but I never had the ambition to become a journalist at that age. I thought it was something that, you know, I didn't know anyone that did that. Speaker 2 00:07:17 You know, like me dad was a teacher and, and you, you know, and you, um, neighbors who were coppers or, you know, whatever. And then a journalist just seemed like way beyond my aspirations. And in fact, I didn't become one till me late twenties, cuz I pissed around for a couple of years doing all turns. So it was only when I got to 26, 27, I thought I met someone who was working in, um, at, at a radio station in Cardiff where I was living at the time. And I, I thought, well, if he could do it, maybe I should ever go. Speaker 1 00:07:58 I suppose prior to that, and this is my curious way of linking, um, you had your, your own personal investigation to, to undertake in as much as, uh, you were adopted, weren't you? Speaker 2 00:08:08 Yes, that's right. Myself, my brother and me two, um, sisters, we were all adopted. Yeah. Um, and I was adopted in 1956. I was a couple of months old, 3, 4, 5 months old, maybe. Uh, not very old. And, um, it wasn't a subject that was referred to. I, I was the eldest of four. And we didn't talk about it really because, um, it's, it's different now. If a child is adopted, they're given like a, a sort of, even Andrews, this is your life book and here's your, there's a picture of your mom and if there's a dad around you, you got a picture of that and this is what, we didn't have any of that. So it was kind of, um, I didn't really, although me mom and dad did give me a little speech to say when I was about three or four. And so he'd say to people, yeah, Michael, um, tell 'em where we got you from. Speaker 2 00:09:08 Alright. And I, I wish I could remember it if sober 60 years ago, uh, talking, you know, say things like, well, mommy and daddy chose me and that was the thing. They chose me from all the babies. They chose me and I'm, and I'm blah blah, blah. And I used to just say this thing. And of course when you're that age, you're just like a nursery that I'm, and after a while I can remember thinking, have I gotta frigging say that? Probably didn't think frigging, but I've gotta say that, you know? And I got a bit, oh, I'm too old for that now, you know, when I got to five or something, you know, so they gave me this thing to say, but I didn't really realize until it was, and, and people at our school knew that I was adopted as well, you know, um, a teacher had told other kids that were, and, and what happened is me dad, who was a teacher, as I said, he became the headmaster of the primary school where I went to. Speaker 2 00:10:01 And I really didn't want him to become the headmaster, you know? And I felt terrible. I can remember praying at night in the bathroom, getting down on all twos and saying, you know, uh, make sure my dad does. And it was terrible because I knew he'd gone for the job and we were all, you know, my granddad was so proud that dad would be headmaster of the school. I really didn't want him to because it's, it's too embarrassing for the kid that age. And he got it, you know? Well, I think then people, oh, you are the headmaster son. And then this thing about me being adopted, we, people would occasionally say things to me and I, of course, I I didn't quite realize how di you know, I didn't give it too much thought. But I remember me, sister, we were out playing one time and someone said to her, oh, you were adopted. Speaker 2 00:10:55 Were you, oh, that's not your mom, or something like that. And me sister said, um, to me afterwards, she said, um, I thought everybody was adopted. You know, it was a lovely thing. It's a, now it seems like a cutesy thing to say and, and that, but we, we, it wasn't discussed in the home. And it was only when I got a little bit older that I started to make inquiries. Cause me, mom, you know, me, mom who brought me up, died when I was 17. She died quite young. And I, um, and then the year after that I made inquiries and made more inquiries and eventually got to the truth of it. And, and the truth was really interesting actually. It's just one of these tough things cuz I'd been in touch with Liverpool Catholic Social Services and I wrote to them, they wrote to me back. Speaker 2 00:11:46 But I was a, I was away at university in Nottingham at the time. So someone had rung up our house and said, is Michael there? But no, he is not. No. So when I came back to see the family, and remember this is after me mum died, I came back to see my dad and the kids and that. And he said, oh, a guy called Ian Marshall is rang Europe. He says, he knows you're from university. He says, I don't don't know anyone called Ian Marshall. Anyway, he run again, apparently after a few weeks later my dad said, is this here Marshall? Do you his number? It's in Liverpool. And I thought, so I rang him and it was someone from Liverpool Catholic Social Services. I thought, oh God, yeah, I wrote that letter. All <laugh>. So I went in and I hope I'm not rambling too much, but at the time, in my first year at university, I was going out sort of going out with a girl from Dublin who we'd met on a school trip the previous year. Speaker 2 00:12:47 So I was going out with her and in 1976, and I think it was 76, me, her and some of her friends, we all went to Iceland cuz there was a cheap flight from Dublin to Iceland. So we went, we went camping in Iceland in like August or it was a weird thing to do. We had no money. But anyway, we went there. That had a good time. And what had happened is this guy called Ian Marshall had rung me dad and mean, dad had said, oh, he is in Iceland. So Ian had said, well, tell him to ring when I come back. So I rang him and I went in to see him at the offices and he said, I said, oh, he said, what we, and he had all the papers in front of him, Mike, and we introduced himself and he said, uh, so you were in Iceland? Were, I said, yeah, yeah. He said, oh, right. He said, were you tracing your family? And I looked at him cuz I didn't know where my mother was from or me father. I said, no, why'd you say that? He said, oh, cause on this pa on this bit of paper there, it says, uh, his mo your mother is from Iceland. Oh. Oh, no, sorry, that's wrong. Writing Ireland <laugh>. Speaker 2 00:13:59 So, so, so for like five seconds, I thought you could've knocked me down with, you could've blowed on me and I would've not, you could've knocked me down with the feather, as they say. And it was Ireland that was written on the paper. And um, I'd been over to Ireland a few times. I had a lot of connections with it anyway, being from Liverpool as well, you know, there's a lot of connections with Ireland. So, but that was it. That was a, a kinda weird moment where I thought, crikey, I'm Icelandic. And of course I'm not. But I wasn't disappointed by being, uh, Irish, apart Irish. Anyway, you know, Speaker 1 00:14:44 You are listening to the plastic podcasts. We all come from somewhere else. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Everyone's story has some kind of beginning, even if it's not quite the start. We think it is Mick a's journey stretches back across generations. But first we'll start with the most immediate and what he knows about his birth mother and her family. Speaker 2 00:15:07 Oh, well she, um, she was a nurse, um, and she was working in the is of man. She, she had been working in London, Baum Hospital in London. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, but she trained, I, I'm not sure I'm pretty, maybe she trained in England. They were from, um, Bali line, which I think is en leash. I should know. I've been there. But it's, it's, it's, it's about 50 miles from, it's not far from nace, which is about 50 miles from Dublin. Anyway, so from a little village there, there are three girls in the family and she'd come over to England, trained as, and theres, and she was doing some work in the island. Man, my birth father was <laugh> an amazing guy. I eventually met him. He was, uh, he was from Kenya, born in Kenya. White guy obviously from Kenya. Um, no, his passport had the number six on it after Kenya got independence. Speaker 2 00:16:12 And he was visiting his sister in the is of man who was in a mental hospital or a mental ward in the aisle of man. And his, his sister in fact only died about seven or eight years ago. Um, and he was visiting her and he and Joan started going out. Um, and Peter, I don't think had ever been in England before. Obviously he spoke English and he was a bit like, um, he looked a bit like John Lameer. You see, you see him very posh. Um, and they went out for a couple of months, I think. And when she, and then she was in London, she'd go over to see him in London. I, I don't really know the details of this cuz I could, you know, as I explained a bit later, the communications with my mother who only died sort of two or three years ago, uh, were, were quite difficult. Speaker 2 00:17:03 But, um, but Peter got her pregnant and I'm pretty sure Peter was married at the time. So Peter pissed off back to, um, Kenya, where he actually got the George medal eventually for fighting the Mao Mau. This, that, that's another story. But Joan had me, um, here in Liverpool. Um, she'd come up to Liverpool. Her mother had come over from Ireland to see what was happening because she hadn't, Joan hadn't been over for a while. And in fact, Joan didn't realize she was pregnant until five or six months into the pregnancy. Her mother came over, they were around the Warrington area, and then they were in Liverpool. And then Joan had me in Broad Green Hospital, which was turned out to be only half a mile a mile away from where I was brought up. And then I was adopted after three months or so, as I say. Speaker 2 00:18:03 Um, and then, then he, so it was a non, uh, it wasn't a, a subject discussed at home. I, I do remember asking me, mom, what my name was when I was originally born <laugh> born <laugh>. Uh, and it was Stephen and it, and that was, I remember thinking that was quite weird cuz I'd been confirmed aged 12. And I had Steven, I, I chose Steven as my confirmation name and I didn't know that that was my original name then. And when I said, when I asked her what the surname was, which was Tuy, she didn't, she didn't tell me. But I, I, I saw it somewhere. I saw it somewhere on a bit of paper. So a new me name was Steven Tuey. When it was 14 or 15, I guess, you know, Speaker 1 00:19:04 Briefly staying with your, your adoptive parents, were they of Irish descent? Speaker 2 00:19:08 Well, my mother's, uh, main name was Clooney. And my, my granddad could have had, uh, my granddad on me mother's side. Um, he could have had Irish citizenship when he was younger than he didn't go for it. Um, I think his pers or one of his pers maybe his father was Irish. He definitely had some antied that were Irish. And on my dad's side, his grandmother was Irish, her name was Finity. And so the, the, there was a, there were connections on both really, you know, and as kids, we'd gone to Ireland with the school, like on school holidays, our school would takers to Greystones in Wicklow or Scars, which is somewhere north of Dublin, I think. And I remember going to those places and we'd go at the school, on a school holiday, school trip for a week or two, you know. Um, and I've got photographs from my mother when she was, um, from Imam, who brought me up, um, from when she was a teenager, and they would go over to Ireland after, after the war. They, they'd go on, I've got a photo, I've got such a weird photo. I've her and their friend in Carlo outside a little house in Carlo. And that's where Joan and her sisters went to school. You know, so there was kind of weird stuff there. So the were connections dug. Yeah, for me, Speaker 1 00:20:33 The circumstances dictates all, all kinds of bits and pieces. And the fact that your mother's mother came across from Dublin in order to investigate what was going on, and that your mom had you in Liverpool, there was a distinct possibility that you could have that your, she could have been brought back to Dublin and you could have ended up in a mother and baby home or something like that. Speaker 2 00:20:49 Yeah, yeah. I mean, well, I, I, my aunt, I asked her years ago, I, I mean, I asked her years ago, I said, what would've happened if I'd have been brought back? And it, it wouldn't have happened in those days. I mean, her relatives did not know about me. Her close relatives in Ireland didn't know about me until relatively recently. Um, but she said, oh, you'd have ended up working in a bar or something because they were from quite in inverted coms a good family. You know, they were a middle, what we would call a middle class family, lower middle class family. They had a pub, which, which was a gross as as well, the backed the wrong side in <laugh>, in the Irish Civil War. You know, um, there are stories, and I know people say this when I've mentioned this to people from Ireland, they always smile, but there are stories. Speaker 2 00:21:43 Um, my maternal grandmother or great-grandmother told my mother that Michael Collins sat there, sat in that chair, you know, and all this. So they were kind of, um, well-to-do family, not, not massively wealthy, but they had a, you know, there a be a little bit of land in that. And that started to go downhill in the thirties and forties. And it, they became bankrupt in the fifties. So my mother having me was kind of part of the course, if, if you are the maternal leader of this family, you know, the father was away in America. That was another story. But, um, they'd have felt that, oh God, let's just get outta this place, you know, let's start a new life. And so the prospects of me ended up there were, you know, Phyllis just said to me, oh my God, you did, you know, Herr was, you'll end up working in a bar. Which to Phyllis was, you know, not, not what she wanted. She became a teacher. Joan became a nurse. My other, uh, they had another aunt who, uh, had another aunt. They had another sister who became a nurse. So, you know, that was what they aspired to Speaker 1 00:22:57 That was leaving. Speaker 2 00:22:59 Pardon? Speaker 1 00:23:00 Leaving, moving on. Speaker 2 00:23:02 Yeah. Yeah, yeah, definitely. And, and, and when I, you know, but the amazing thing is what, like when I finish at the B bbc, I went over walking in Ireland, oh, not, not not just walking, cycling, driving around. And I went to where my, um, maternal grandfather was from in Mayo, cuz it wasn't far from knock. I flew from Liverpool to knock, not really knowing much about that side of the family. I went into A b and B in knock. And the guy said, where are you from? So I said, oh, blah, blah, blah. Gave me birth details. And within 10 minutes he'd found out that my great-grandfather had lived 20 minutes away from Knock airport. And he took me there, he took me there and we went into the pub and these fellas there watching the dart on the tally, and he said he didn't know these guys. Speaker 2 00:23:56 This is what was brilliant. He said, this guy here has come from England, blah, blah, blah. Um, will anyone that round here remember, um, a fella called <unk>? He talked, he said, oh, Soandso, who runs the shop call round there tomorrow. So this guy, Terry, me and him went to this shop tomorrow. And this old guy, if he's still alive, he'll be in his early eighties now. And he said, um, said, I remember your grandfather, your great-grandfather, your great-grandfather pulling potatoes from that field. And he bought the field from the family and built a bungalow on it. And he said, I remembered him as if it was yesterday. And that, that just was like a revelatory moment. And then he said, he said, he called his daughter, who was near my age, a bit younger than me, he called his daughter into the shop. And I'm standing there talking to this guy thinking this is just magical, you know? Speaker 2 00:24:54 And he said, he said, you remember Mickey Tuey? And his daughter said, oh, I, uh, well this is his great, great great Mickey Tuey died in the 19th century. She doesn't remember him like you and I would remember someone from our childhood, but they talked about people who'd been dead a hundred years and who were still part of their culture. And that story is why I'm so drawn to it. How couldn't you be Doug? You know, how couldn't you be? That is the thing that is to me, is just, was just magical. The fact that he said, you know, Mickey Tuey? And he goes, yeah, Mickey, I looked it up. Mickey Tuey died in the 1890s or something like that, or maybe before. And this was, this was only, this is only like 6, 7, 7 years ago. It was, so there you go. That's, you know, the past is always with us. Speaker 2 00:25:55 Yeah, the past is is with us, but, but not in from mine. It was, yes, there was a personal dimension to it, of course there was, but there was more than that. It was growing up in the city, growing up in, in England, you don't get that level of instant, Boeing, this is who you are, or, or you know, I'm probably being unfair. I don't know. I doubt it though. I suspect you don't. But most of the time, and that was what was so powerful, me and it, it brought in a lot of the music, the literature, all the other stuff I thought, yeah, you know, I spent a couple of hours wandering around this little place, which had been a, a village back in the, when my grandfather had left for America. Um, it had been a village and there was hardly anyone living there now, but it was still there and the graves were still there. And, you know, it was just, it was just so, so amazing to be part of that, to be part of that story. And that's why it was so important for me to, um, breathe in that ishness and become part of it. Speaker 1 00:27:19 We'll be back with Mick Ward in a moment, but first it's time for the Plastic Pedestal, that part of the podcast where I ask one of my interviewees to pay tribute to a member of the diaspora of personal, cultural, or political significance to them. This week, chiia Phoenix, actor, writer, director, spiritual advisor and activist, raises up another friend of the podcasts, the unique founder of I am Irish, Lorraine Ma Speaker 3 00:27:46 Lorraine, uh, Lorraine. I call her Mima <laugh>. Uh, Lorraine is to me an inspirational, creative, integral, uh, lived experience leader. Lived experience leader is a, is a term that I have started to take on because I feel like we need people that have really lived certain experiences, leading movements because their story will connect more to other people out there. Lorraine has had, you know, a plethora of experience in the arts world, in the youth, in the criminal justice sector, but has been so humble with how she has worked to move forward. And she just poured a lot into me for me to be the woman that I am sitting in front of you today that I'm very, very grateful for. Um, Lorraine's background, for anybody that doesn't know, you know, she is Nigerian and Irish, um, and grew up in Tipperary as a mixed heritage woman with Irish ancestry. Speaker 3 00:29:01 She's very proud, she's very proud of her Irish, uh, ancestry. Um, but also needed to understand who she was and where she's come from and why she is drawn to maybe various communities. When she got here in London, um, you know, she's been a, uh, you know, community, well, no, that's not the right term. What, what's the right term? I don't, she's worked as like a kind of, um, she's an educator. She's a writer, she's a director, she's a poet. She is a visionary, I would say she's a visionary. She's great at inspiring people. She's worked in education, she's worked for many, um, art houses, um, leading conversations that just allow artists to express who they are. She's great at giving people opportunities. I think that I'll probably say to her now, because I'm grown, you've given too many opportunities, should've held some of them back for yourself or whatnot, just because she's always had such a giving heart. Speaker 3 00:30:04 And so for myself to see, I am Irish, um, sorry for those that don't know what I am, Irish is, um, Lorraine created this organization. I think it's 2017, please don't kill me if it's 2000, but I think it's 2017, it might be a bit earlier. Um, to celebrate those for mixed heritage Irish cultures, so those that are Irish and othered, you know, Irish and Caribbean, Irish and African Irish and whoever else around the world. But mostly highlighting those from the black diaspora or the African diaspora ac around the world. And, you know, she did this initially by just creating a visual presence, which was a series of pictures that she launched with of people that may not look traditionally what people know as being Irish. So that makes her very courageous to me, um, to open up conversations to bridge a gap between the communities, but also know that it might make people uncomfortable. Speaker 3 00:31:11 And also it's courageous because it made her uncomfortable, because it made her explore aspects or her own experience. And sometimes it's not nice visiting those experiences as you're trying to understand who you are now. And then also keeping some integrity for yourself and not sharing too much, but then needing to share enough because, you know, the whole topic is based on yourself. You are the, the selling of the, you are the person selling the actual product. It's, it's based on you. Um, and it's just been a beautiful journey to watch because I said to her recently, you know, are you proud? I hope that you are proud. I hope that you are celebrating every milestone that you make with I am Irish. Because I reminded her, do you remember when we just sat in your living room or your kitchen and you said that this was an idea and you were scared? Speaker 3 00:32:06 Yeah. And when you have that clear idea of a friend or a family member or someone when they come to you and they say to you, what do you think of this? And you say to them, go for it. But they've got their own personal journey to go on alongside that. And then to see how many years later to be invited into spaces, into circles, to be respected highly within the community that the Irish community that she loves. And being able to say, well I am the face of the Irish also for me, you just don't get experiences like that often in life where you get to witness people's journey like that, um, from the inside. And for something that really she's connected the diaspora across the world, there's people celebrating that. They're mixed heritage Irish from across the world and it's giving voice and visuality, I don't know, visuality is a word. Speaker 3 00:33:03 I do make up words sometimes, but it gives, uh, voice and visuals to these people that may have never been seen or even feel that they were worth being seen because they didn't know which side they're supposed to fall on. Who's gonna embrace them? Is it a safe space for them to announce that I am this and I'm this, and then also tap into some of the histories behind it. Because obviously the Irish history, there's a lot of sadness, there's a lot of tragedy, there's a lot of war, there's a lot of confusion, there's a lot of ignorance that is still exists in coming from an Irish community in relation to where we're at in England. So like I said, she's just courageous and is quite a selfless being, um, for what I feel that she has poured into me that I didn't realize till much older that I was like, wow, like would I actually even have had the career that I've had? Speaker 3 00:34:06 If it wasn't for this lady seeing that in me before, I could see it in myself. And that's also why it was very important because as a young, uh, black girl at that time, we didn't know what the possibilities were for us to do because the opportunities wasn't so big. So knowing someone could pour into you and put you in certain positions, I was, you know, she put me in positions that I was just like, what? Dunno if I'm ready. Dunno if I'm ready for that. And she was like, no, you'll be fine. Go into that. But she helped me to learn and see aspects of myself that I just didn't know was there. And I think that takes special people to be able to do that. And she helped me to develop how I would do that in others, if that makes sense. That good, good hope. That's a good introduction. I wanted to do a good <laugh> Speaker 1 00:34:54 Gia Phoenix there. And if you want to hear more of what Gia has to say, why not listen to her entire interview? Simply go to our [email protected]. Also available on Spotify, apple Podcasts and Audible. But while you [email protected], why not subscribe, just go to our homepage, scroll down to the bottom, insert your details in the space provided, and one confirmation click later. The entire plastic loo to the world will be yours each and every month. Honest. Now back to Mick or Ireland, as we're constantly being reminded is a change to nation. The Republic of 50, or even 20 years ago, is almost unrecognizable in social terms from the land. It is now. One of the most recent changes has been the passing of the birth information and tracing act in October, 2022. Finally giving adoptees the rights to choose to contact their birth relatives. It's an imperfect system with the 30 and 90 day waiting times promised by the act proving to be less than adequate for dealing with the backlog of applications. But it is a start, certainly it's a less arbitrary process than the one that faced Mick Ward as he sourced to make contact with his mother and her family. But it's best to let him describe that. Speaker 2 00:36:14 Okay, well, well what happened is, um, I had all their details and I didn't try to contact her for years and years. Me mother, I had some details and then what I thought I'd do is, um, we went over to Ireland about 23 <laugh> more, less 24 years ago cuz my wife was pregnant with me, uh, one of my daughters. And I said, I've always wanted to go where, you know, where they were brought up. Um, and so we, I, I'd found out that, um, my mother's family had a pub, like I mentioned to you before. It was called short halls. And the, the village was called lineman. And we were driving, and this was before Satton now, so I'm somewhere around here and I just had, you know, without getting too en entranced by the mysticism of all this, I thought I said, I remember saying to me, wife said, I've got a feeling around here, you know, never been there, obviously returned a corner. And then it was, you know, not many houses. There was the pub. Speaker 2 00:37:26 Um, and then I went to the school where they went to. I knew they went, gone to St. Leo's convent in Carlo and had arranged to meet, I'd been faxing, that's how long ago it was. I'd been faxing the head mistress. And she told me that my mother occasionally kept in touch with some of the nuns who'd taught her back in the, back in the day in the forties, fifties. So I met all these nuns and there were, there was a lovely nun there, her name was Sister Augustine. And she was, I think she was 88. And my God, she remembered both my mother when they were, when she was a little girl and went to the school and my aunt and she c she told me about them and she kept in contact with me, aunt. And it was, it was a bit like that moment I mentioned before dog, you know, I thought, oh my word, you know, and she really remembered them. Speaker 2 00:38:24 They were lovely and they were giving us cakes and biscuits and tea, coffee. It was just a classic. And there were about four or five nuns sitting around. And this sister Gussie, you know, big woman. But she was lovely, you know. And so after that the head mistress of the school at the time had given me an address, Jones address. So I'd written to my mother, she'd received the letter in New Jersey, opened it up and thought, oh my god, I can't handle this. So she rung up me aunt in New York and said, I've got this letter cuz she hadn't told her husband that she'd had me out to manage and they couldn't have kids. That's important to know. And so then Phyllis took up the mantle and Phyllis wrote to me and said, and it was quite a, like Phyllis had been, um, a librarian and a teacher both in England and in America. Speaker 2 00:39:24 And it was quite a, it was quite a formal letter, it was quite standoffish, which is ironic given how close we are now. But she said, um, should you, I've still got the letter somewhere. It says something like, should you wish to, should you wish further contact, please do it via me. So I thought, oh, alright, just that's not exactly wide open arms, isn't it? So I thought, and then I thought, oh fuck it, I'll write. So I wrote back and then the letter after that she said she replied to whatever was asking or telling her about, telling a bit about my life. And then she said, I've just realized I now have a nephew, your sincerely Phyllis. And those couple of words, that was the link. And after that I wrote more often and a runa. And she came over here and we're so, we're so incredibly close and she's still alive. Speaker 2 00:40:26 She ain't gonna be alive for that much longer I don't think. But she's, she's okay, she's in a home now. But I used to go over and stay with her and she'd tell me about what life was like and she'd been a nun. She'd had a fascinating life. Occasionally I would speak to Joan over the phone, but it was difficult cuz her husband was there. And the only time I met her met in inverted commas. It's sort of like a scene from a movie. Her and Phyllis and um, her husband, um, not Phyllis's husband, Jones husband were meeting at the Lincoln Center in New York. And they'd arranged that I would be around reading a newspaper cuz obviously he was there. And so he didn't know. So I can remember at the Lincoln Center, I was reading this newspaper and, and I saw in the distance I said, I could see Phyllis behind this pillar and a woman to the neck next to her and a fella to the next there, but I couldn't see them clearly. Speaker 2 00:41:30 And they walked up and then they stopped out to the other side of this pillar. So I was there reading and I dread most of the bleeding paper and they, um, they were behind this pillar. They were just talking to each other as you would do, you know. And I could see their reflection because the, the windows were black were blacked out. So you could see the reflection. The reflection quite clearly. And I thought, bloody olive come 2000 miles over here. We've come all the way here and all I'm gonna get is a reflection of the woman who gave birth to me. And I thought, typical cuz I thought then they'd go back the other way. But then after a couple of minutes, they walked past the pillar and they came into view and there was Phyllis on the left, Joan in the middle. Oh no, I think that was Joan in the middle and her husband on the right. Speaker 2 00:42:31 And when they walked, as they walked, came towards me, Joan just went like that and moved ahead and we got each other's eyes. Cause you know, we caught each other looking at each other as it were. And um, cuz that had been prearranged, obviously Phyllis had said he's gonna be there. And she just looked at me like that and then looked away and carried on. And that was the only time I saw her in the flesh. But she'd said to, um, she'd said to Phyllis later, oh my God, he doesn't not look like, um, Peter, my father. Wow. But I also not like her as well, relatives have said so. It's a bit of both I suppose. But that's the only time I kind of met her. And I'd, I'd speak to her on the phone and she was fine on the phone, but most of the time she could only speak when her husband wasn't there, which wasn't very often. Speaker 2 00:43:27 And when she did, when she did ring, it was as if, from her point of view, it was as if we'd known each other, all our, all our lives. And I, that wasn't like that for me, you know? Um, I had a lot more to ask and that I couldn't ask. Um, and also I'd had me mum as well. Me mum had brought me up, you know, Peter, when I met Peter, he always wanted me to call him Dad, I don't fucking do that. You, you didn't bring me up. So my dad who died, he was me, dad and mean mom was me, mom and them what? Brooke brought me up. But nevertheless, she did try to, she did try to give some of herself, but it was such an awful time when she gave birth to me. Um, and they'd been told these women that had babies in the fifties and sixties were told there'd be no combat. Speaker 2 00:44:26 And then they changed the law, didn't they? In the, in the UK in 1975 or 76, giving rights to children had been adopted and a lot, there were a lot of nervous women all over Bri Britain and Ireland and beyond at that time because some of the, some of the, um, some of the meetings that took place didn't end up pleasantly. Um, my one ended up well cause I got Phyllis out of it, got a great relationship with her, which it would never have had otherwise. That was the thing I got most out of it in terms of hardcore of relationships, you know. But Joan, you know, when I tried to contact her, oh God, it was traumatic fall. But we did, she'd occasionally send me birthday card or a letter or spoke on the phone very, very occasionally. And I, I wouldn't wanna force it beyond that. I thought, you know, I don't need to push that. Speaker 1 00:45:28 When you said, uh, a little earlier that there were holes in your life in the jigsaw of your life that, that were filled at knock and so forth, I was left wondering when, say for example, you were 17, 18, were you at all angry at your situation or, you know, was there ever that, like, you are not my mom sort of thing? Or is that Speaker 2 00:45:49 A No, not at all. Not at all. I mean, um, as I say, my mum died when I was 17 and that was, that was traumatic. That was the first, I mean, although I'd had grandparents die, um, and that, and they were traumatic as well, but that was, and so, no, I mean they were great. I was very lucky. I had a very good childhood. You Speaker 1 00:46:13 Know, I couldn't ask you if it was a happy home. Yeah, Speaker 2 00:46:15 Yeah, he was. Yeah. And yeah, there was some bits of the jigsaw that didn't fit. Um, but I never felt anger towards them at all. Or indeed I had nothing to be angry about. Um, no at all. I mean, I mean, my younger, my siblings, me sisters and me brother, they, um, things were a bit more open for them. Certainly for one of me sisters and me brother, it was a bit more open, you know, cuz me, my, my younger sister Carmel, she used to speak to me dad about it quite a lot. Well, I couldn't, but from his point of view and mine, it was just not what we did. And I wouldn't have gone there and I would've been, I mean, one of the reasons why I left it so late to try to, um, trace me parents, me birth parents was because I didn't wanna upset them. Speaker 2 00:47:07 But given that me mum died when I was, you know, when I was 17, I didn't want to kind of, um, I didn't want, I dunno, I think if she'd have been alive, I probably wouldn't have done it. I don't know. It was a very, that age you can, if you don't know where your emotions are, then I, I was quite, uh, very sensitive about not upsetting them, you know what I mean? And she'd just died. And so I felt bad enough when I contacted that guy, Ian Marshall, anyway, but I thought, well, I'm in me twenties now, but I, I didn't tell me daddy was doing that and I wouldn't have done, you know, it was, it was quite top, top secret and it was kind of, um, it was a bit of guilt day, you know? I suppose he Speaker 1 00:47:55 Was scared of hurting him. Speaker 2 00:47:57 Yeah. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:48:06 You are listening to the Plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora. Email us at the plastic podcasts gmail.com. Despite the secrecy and the potential guilt, Mick's story is inevitably a happy one a fact in no small way down to the relationship, he struck up with Phyllis, his mother's sister, since recording this interview. Phyllis sadly died last July. However, Mick was able to see her one last time and wanted to have this podcast pay tribute to her kindness and generosity. It's our privilege. As mentioned at the top of this podcast, Mick aut was an N U j regional journalist of the year in 1990 for his documentary on the Cheshire Regiment when they were stationed in South Amar back before the ceasefire reporting on Northern Ireland at that time was always a task fraught with danger and trepidation, particularly for anyone with Irish ancestry. I wonder why he wanted to do this. Speaker 2 00:49:02 Well, the Cheshire Regiment, I was at me, I was at Radio Me side, I think I was a producer now, might have been a news editor, I dunno, this was in the, and they said, um, would you like to come over? We're looking for you to send a reporter over to, uh, south Elmar where were based, the fourth Cheshire Regiment, do a documentary. And the boss had come to me and said, do you fancy this? And I said to Right, fantastic. I wanna do that. Yeah, definitely. I said, but I'm not just going to do PR stomp in the Army. I wanna interview the local people as well there. And the guy who was the press officer at the Army was a good guy actually. I said, look, I said, I'm not going for, he said, don't worry. He said, you can spend two days your those, and then do what you want. So then I phoned, I, so then I phoned up, um, I phoned up the journalist, I think, I think it was Aon Mallie, who's quite a well known Irish journalist. And I phoned him up and said, look, I'm, I wanna do a documentary in Cross Mc Glenn. And he said, what? Yeah, man, don't go there, eat, said, don't go. It's too dangerous. Speaker 2 00:50:20 So, and I spoke to someone else I contacted in Liverpool as, uh, her uncle was a priest around there. Anyway, I ended up ring ringing a Shin Fe counselor, um, Jim McAllister, who's no died. And he was a, he was a counselor, he was a Shin Fein counselor in Cross mc. And I said, look, I'm, I'm coming over. I said, I'm being completely honest with you, I'm gonna spend two days with the soldier, with the, um, the regiment, and then I wanna spend some time, you know, maybe with you, with other people and just find out. He said, fine. He said, you're being straight with us. Don't mind come over. So I, I went over and I remember driving into Crossland and hide a car. And I remember driving from, um, Belfast and coming down, I was a, I didn't realize it was gonna take so long, so I was quite tired and hungry. Speaker 2 00:51:17 And I drove into Cross Island and saw these massive signs. You are now in i r a country, huge signs. And this was at the time where sh where the British government under Thatcher had said that Shin Fein couldn't be interviewed on the media. So actors had to do their voices. And I thought, I'm going to do a radio documentary here, so again, I get someone else to voice it all up. So anyway, but I remember coming into Shin into, um, cross McLennon being in this little village, and, and Jim had told all the people that needed to know that I was coming in and I wasn't working for the Brits. And I went, blah, blah, blah. And I came in and met him and I, I could have eaten a chair and a table. By the time he brought me back to his house, I remember going in and he said, you're hungry. Speaker 2 00:52:09 I said, I'm starving, you know, so his wife made me egg and chips and I eed a lot. I just won. She gave me a load and I was just starved, polished a lot. I needed that. That's relevant, that's what I'm gonna tell you. So I spent, um, I'd spent two days in the barracks with the British Army, and then I, I think I must have done that after Cross Mcg Grand. Yeah, I had done that. But anyway, I spent, I spent a couple of days with him and he took me to places and we interviewed people and interviewed him. Um, and then I spent time on the Sunday. I spent, I remember going to, um, the family of, um, a A D U P counselor. It was a Sunday and they were all done up to the nines, you know, I wanted to interview him. Speaker 2 00:53:02 He said, where have you stayed? Where did you stay in cross? I said, oh, I stayed at Jim McAllister's house. And he said, oh, Jim Mcar. And he said, if it wasn't for his politics, he'd be a good guy. Him, you know, the humor of both sides was absolutely fantastic, I must say. I really appreciated it. Anyway, I go there on the Sunday and I said to this guy, anyway, um, he said, um, would you like something to eat? And I said, uh, oh, you know, that'd be very kind to you. I wasn't that, I wasn't the starving, I, I'd be the furious steak. And he said to me, he said, did you eat anything at Jim Macau's house? And I said, yeah, I had, uh, I had egg and chips. Very nice. He said, very good. He said, he said, um, would you like something here? I said, yes. And he said, he said, Janet, get Michael the salmon. And he said to me, he said to me, you tell Jim McAllister you had salmon at my house, <laugh>. Speaker 2 00:54:01 And it was like that a lot of the time. There was, you know, all the bitterness that we all know about or think we know about. But that was, um, I interviewed, I also got lost in Cross mc and I was gonna meet, I was going to go to the SD l p councilor's place, and I got lost. I thought, I'm gonna have to stop the card and ask. And there was a social club there, a Republican social club there, and there was a, there's a guy standing outside, obviously kind of, you know, guard in the place. And I thought, I've gotta open my mouth. He's, whatcha gonna think. So I said, I said, excuse me? I said, I know by me accent you're gonna think I'm, I'm not working for the Army. I'm lost. Can you help me? And the guy just, here's a thick scout accent coming out thinking, what are you doing? Speaker 2 00:54:58 And the guy just clocked me and thought, I believe you. I said, I'm, I'm looking for this S b I canceled bit. I can't find it. Can you tell me? And he said, you need to be careful around here, son. He said, but you go up there, turn left, blah, blah. And I, I did the interview and it was just a bit scary. I was thinking, my God, you know, this is what the journalist had said to me, don't go wandering round there. And the me first or second day there, soft la gets lost and then happened to, you know, but it was okay. And it was the, the documentary went really well. I spoke to as many people as I could. Um, um, and it was, it was instructive. And I like, as you say, it was looking at the British, like a meta squatty from Chester who would, uh, nearly had his leg blown off by a sniper. Speaker 2 00:55:57 And that he showed me the bullet that had gone right through his, the flesh in his leg from one side to the other. If it had hit the bone, it had taken it off. And I, I thought bullets were this size and this was like, I'm holding up a pen here about twice the size of the pen. It was like a little missile. It was a Libyan bullet that he kept. Um, so I interviewed some of the squads about the condition. I interviewed the officers. I interviewed <inaudible> counselors. I interviewed people whose, um, families had been abused by the, by the British soldiers over there. It was just a revelator I was a really privileged to be allowed in and to get that. And then I won an award for the documentary, which was good. And I sent everybody who took part in the interview, a cassette of the documentary, including Jim McAllister and the, the other people, one of whom turned out to be the local I r a boss, which I didn't know at the time, but he got a cassette, uh, the Old Dead. And uh, yeah, that was a amazing journalistic experience, but it was an amazing privilege to be able to, to meet and report on that. You know. Speaker 1 00:57:11 Last two questions. I'm gonna take you back across to, uh, that moment in Knock. Did other people notice the change in you after that visit? Speaker 2 00:57:23 Maybe I, I don't know. I don't like to, uh, what I didn't mention to you, four kids in our family, three of them have Irish mothers. They used to say she's getting the Liverpool boat and that meant she's going over there to have a baby. More recently, getting the Liverpool boat means having an abortion. So it's interesting, uh, comparison. When I met my wife, she knew I was really interested in the stuff I to do with Ireland because of me background. So I don't know whether me mates would say they've noticed anything really. Dog. I don't know. Fellas are a bit <laugh> a bit kind of, no. If I, I'll asked them, but I don't think it's a good idea. Actually. I'll ask them, but I don't think they will. I think one of me mates might actually haven't thought, haven't just thought about it. Um, one of me mates might, I'll, I'll ask him. Speaker 1 00:58:15 You raised the per spectrum of one other question. You, you were saying about Sarga, how the, uh, the boats of Liverpool at one point meant there's, you're off to have a baby and more recently it met you also have an abortion. What are the other changes that you think that might have been between Liverpool and Ireland over the, say the last 40 years, Speaker 2 00:58:31 Whatever? I would say in the past 20 years, people in Liverpool had become more attuned to their Irish heritage. The people that have what you see, the me side economy started to contract in the late sixties and the seventies and the eighties. You hit a bit. People were leaving here, there was no work here. You wouldn't come to Liverpool from Ireland or anywhere else to get work because there wasn't any. And they got rid of a lot of people from the docks in the sixties. And then with had Wilson being the local MP and Prime minister, labor government, they had Fords in Haile Ward. And so that absorbed a lot of the unemployment that had happened. But come the seventies, maybe the late, late sixties, maybe it's more the seventies. Even when I was in the sixth form, people were saying, well, the shutting down factories here now, you know, so I think, so fewer Irish people came over to live here probably from the seventies onwards and certainly the eighties. Speaker 2 00:59:39 Why would you frigging come here? No, me side had the same youth immigration rate as the Republic of Ireland in the, in the eighties it was very high. It was like 20% or 90% or something like that. And so I think, but then I think when the economy and the areas started to rebuild, I mean, Liverpool just after the Second World War had a million people in the population just under a million. I think I'm right in saying even now, it's only about 500,000 now, okay, some will have moved to the suburbs and beyond, but it, they lost a lot of people. I only, I think it's only relatively recently that people have sort of, um, you know, Irish people have started to come back over to Liverpool to work, and I think Liverpool people, maybe, maybe the capital of culture, maybe not, but, um, have become a little bit more aware of their heritage. Speaker 2 01:00:40 Some people obviously always were, but I think for, for younger generations, it wouldn't really have been something they thought about until, except in historical terms, except relatively recently, you're probably best finding out a more accurate reflection of that from younger people. But I, I, I, I certainly noticed more, uh, overt recognition of being Irish, um, in a positive way. Um, I've noticed that more recently. I mean, I was talking to someone the other day whose dad came over from Wexford in the fifties, and he had a tough time. You know, there was still no blacks, no g, no, no dogs, no Irish, you know, and there was still an element of sectarianism in Liverpool until, you know, until fairly recently. Um, so, um, but in terms of the Irish kind of, um, the Irish diaspora and the appreciation of, um, Liverpool having an Irish heritage, I think it, I think that has got more high profiles, should we say, over the past 20, 25 years maybe, than it was before. Um, and the recognition of its importance. Speaker 1 01:01:52 And my final question, which is the one I ask all my interviewees with various different variations along the way, but in your case, it's gonna be so pretty straightforward, which is what does being a member of the RSD aspir mean for Speaker 2 01:02:04 You? Well, it's, um, it is in so many ways who I am, you know, it is, it is who I am. It it means, it, it is an immense source of pride and immense, uh, both from a personal and cultural intellectual point of view. It just means so much to me. And it, and because it's happened slowly in my case, you know, because I had to look up me more than all, all this stuff. It's kind of something that's growing all the time. I would say, if I look back, say from, from when my mum died when I was 17, and now I'm 65, it's something to just, you know, when you stop and think about it, you're thinking, wow, yeah, that's, that's part of me. Now I can, I can enjoy that and explore it, and probe it, and scratch it and kick it down, man. And it's, it's, um, it's a great thing. You know, I'm, I'm extremely proud of it, and I'm extremely proud of other people who've, who, who, who, who I've met, who can share in that it feels like, uh, it feels like a big family. Speaker 1 01:03:15 You've been listening to The Plastic Podcasts with me, Doug Devan, and my guest, Mick, or The Plastic Pedestal, was provided by Chiia Phoenix and music by Jack Devaney. Find [email protected]. Email us at the plastic podcasts gmail.com or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Until next month's episode, stay well.

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