Pauline Nevins: A Mixed-Race Daughter in a White Irish Family

May 14, 2021 00:53:13
Pauline Nevins: A Mixed-Race Daughter in a White Irish Family
The Plastic Podcasts
Pauline Nevins: A Mixed-Race Daughter in a White Irish Family
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Show Notes

Pauline Nevins is the author of Fudge, The Downs and Ups of a Bi-Racial, Half-Irish, British War Baby. Born the only mixed race child in a family of eight white children, hers is a story of family secrets, revelations and reunions.

Raised in Wellingborough, and now a resident of California,. Pauline’s story has been featured in two exhibitions organised by The Mixed Museum, one in conjunction with the Association of Mixed Race Irish, the other focussing on the “Brown Babies” of World War II.

Plus, Adrian Lunney selects Brendan Mulkere for The Plastic Pedestal

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:20 How you doing? I'm Doug Devani and you're listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora. Now we've crossed the Irish sea on a number of occasions here on the plastic podcasts, but this is the first time we've crossed the Atlantic and not just the ocean, but the whole United States itself to talk to our guests today, Paulie Nevins born in Wellingborough and now a resident of California. Pauline is the author of fudge, a memoir, which is subtitled the downs and ups of a biracial half Irish British war, baby, which is a much more succinct description of her life story than I could ever manage myself. It's a fascinating read, a vivid advocation of a world, both familiar and alien, and has led to her story being featured in two exhibitions by the mixed museum. One with the association of mixed race, Irish and the other, focusing on the so-called Brown babies of world war two, when we talk it's evening for me and morning for her, but it's some Patrick's day for the pair of us. So naturally the first question I ask is Speaker 2 00:01:19 How you doing? I'm doing fine. And top of the morning, or the afternoon to you and Speaker 1 00:01:26 Our listeners, can't see, but you all resplendent in green Speaker 2 00:01:28 At the moment. Yes, I am. Plus my air, not only my Cod, a good which would be cause sweater over here, my cardigan and my errands, but whereabouts in California are you, I'm in what they call the foothills, which is if you know Sacramento at all. And a lot of people don't, even though it's a capital California, uh, we're at about an hour North of Sacramento and about two hours, uh, West of Reno to give you anybody that's been to United States, that gives them an idea Speaker 1 00:02:00 That's where as the Patrick's day, I mean, psych, does it get celebrated much out in September? Speaker 2 00:02:04 Well, actually it does. They have a parade. I don't know what time it is because we're about an hour from there. And of course with COVID we're not going too far. And in the town that's closest to me, which is called Orban. Uh, they're having a parade about five o'clock this afternoon. So yeah, there's quite a few Irish around at celebrate. Speaker 1 00:02:23 Having a parade is that psyche, I will, will be two meters distance from each other. Speaker 2 00:02:27 Oh, I think so. Yeah. Well, I mean, I don't know how far away they're going to be with each other, cause I won't be there, but they're definitely having a parade. How long have you been out in California? A long time. 1970. I came here, but it was my first, uh, place to live. I came over here the first time to United States with my first husband, uh, in 1964. And, uh, he was, uh, he was a southerner from Virginia and uh, we came to, uh, Virginia for a short time and then we stayed in various places and then he got reassigned, uh, back to England. Uh, and then, uh, we divorced and then my second husband was a California guy we met and then after he came back to California, I joined him later with my two children in here ever since. And love it. Both your husbands were military medicine, correct? Both of them. Yeah. Speaker 3 00:03:18 And, uh, and, uh, the military has been quite big with, with, with, with, with your own life story, I suppose. Speaker 2 00:03:23 Yeah, it has. In fact it was big in our town, you know, in Wellingborough because the, the American air force base was pretty close, uh, before Chavez and actually before it closed down and lots of the young women married Americans. And so there was this connection with America and still is I think, in that town because so many married Americans Speaker 3 00:03:43 And obviously psych, uh, as we alluded in the, uh, at the, at the start of, with the, with the introduction, uh, your biracial half Irish, but you, uh, um, you were the only biracial or Brown baby, uh, in a family of eight children. Yes, Speaker 2 00:03:56 Yes. And in the middle. So that was kind of a surprise to me. It was like, okay. Um, didn't find out until later on. Uh, well really didn't really know the difference. And when you think about it, when you're a child, you don't spend a lot of time looking in the mirror. So my, who I thought I was, was reflection of the people around me and they were all white. So I never thought of myself as different until somebody decided to point that out. Uh, and there would be various people that would go out of their way to do that. Uh, and then of course my half-brothers and sisters, uh, were sometimes not really kind. And I don't know if you remember, they don't have it anymore, but they used to have a Golliwog on the Robertson's jam jar. And that was their logo. And for ages, uh, when we would have, uh, tea on a Sunday, which was the only time we had anything really, uh, fancy, which jam was back then my brothers and sisters would point to the Golliwog look at me and laugh. Speaker 2 00:05:02 And I burst into tears, not really knowing why, but knew it was not a compliment. Uh, and then there were various other small things. I mean, not tremendous things, but we had a wonderful teacher, Ms. Gray, the music teacher who insisted on playing the camp town races every week. And in those days there was a sentence said, you jumped on a N word because you thought it was a horse. I mean, people would sing this out bad. Was I the only dark skin person in the school and the boys were the worst, you know, I'd look out the corner of my eye and there would be these boys snickering and looking at me and, you know, just small things, but they're like, you know, a thousand cuts kind of thing. Speaker 3 00:05:49 How old would she have been when those, when you say taking those music lessons? Speaker 2 00:05:54 Uh, well, I was in, well, the, the, the Golliwog one was when I was very young, uh, probably four or five years old, very young. Uh, but the other, the camp town races, I was in what was called a secondary modern school then. So I'd be any age from about 12, 12 to 15 Marine school back then. But there was a neighbor of ours where I used to call auntie Margaret on the plus side, who was absolutely wonderful to me. And she had selected me out of all of our children, our family, and she would make me close on her little treadle sewing machine. And I go visit her every morning and she would treat me very nicely and we'd have tea together and toast crumpets by the fire. And it was absolutely a wonderful memory. Unfortunately, she died when I was very young, but I think that was a real antidote to some of the other things. It was a wonderful memory. Um, so there was some very sweet things, too Speaker 3 00:06:53 Fudge. The title of your book is, is a term that your mother used to use for you. Speaker 2 00:06:58 All of the kids in our family had a nickname, and that was one of the nicer ones for me. I mean, there were other Nastia ones when, when we were arguing with each other, but fudge was the kindest nickname, and that was my name. Uh, and then there was others, you know, one of my sisters was called brick. I have no idea why. And another brother was called ferret, who knows. So, uh, mine was the more obvious nickname because of the color of my skin. But that was how that came about. Speaker 3 00:07:29 I think it was one of your brothers who, when asked about the kind of your skin, it said something about being dipped in paint or something Speaker 2 00:07:37 He did, but if his friend said to him, why is your poorly in Brown? And, uh, uh, one of my brothers said, cause she fell in a bucket of paint. Well, that was all right. I mean, I didn't argue with that because I didn't know any different, Speaker 3 00:07:52 Speaking of family, your book is, um, it doesn't take very many prisoners. Does it, um, where your, uh, where your family is concerned, you're, you're, you're, you're very, very honest about your, your feelings and your relationships with them. Um, what was, what, what, what was the reaction, uh, to the book when it got published? Speaker 2 00:08:07 Well, um, they didn't, I, I can't quite remember how much information I sent, especially to my brother, Kevin, we, we, he talks to me, he calls me about once every few weeks from England, he lives just outside our hometown, uh, uh, just outside Wellingborough. And, uh, he didn't seem that bothered because it was the truth and it was, uh, from my perspective. Um, so, uh, that was it. I mean, I really didn't get any negative feelings from it. I got lots of wonderful responses from people in Wellingborough there's a website, uh Willingboro now, and then, uh, that talks about Wellingborough, how it was and people talk about it. And someone had mentioned my book and so lots of people have read it and excuse me, people, my age were really interested, not only about our wacky family, but also because I talked about how life was when we were growing up, you know, just after the war. Speaker 2 00:09:05 And when I talk about it to Americans, they probably think I'm about 500 years old because I talk about in those days, you still had, the Lamplighter actually would come around the gas lights on the street. We still had people were burning coal for heat. So we had coal fires. So you have the chimney sweep and it was a big day for us kids to run outside when the chimney sweep and watch the brush come out of the chimney. I mean, just small things like that, the same ancient, you know, to kids today, you know, uh, when I, when Americans read my story, they're fascinated by it. And when people from Willingboro the younger generation, it's interesting to them because that's, that's the grandparents life. Speaker 3 00:09:46 We talk about, uh, memoirs, of course you can talk about family members, but also psycho. The, the thing that struck me was, uh, just the paucity of, uh, of memoirs, about Brown babies, uh, and the, uh, the issue of Brown babies. Are you talking about, uh, what we are, we prepared for this about Dr. Lucy bland? Speaker 2 00:10:03 I connected with Dr. Bland, a friend of mine had sent me something and said, have you seen this Brown babies? Uh, uh, Oh, I think it began with, there was a TV program, um, about, um, she was on it. And she later on, uh, realized that there was not a lot of history about mixed race children that were born the children of, uh, black American GIS. And so that's when she did her book, uh, Britain's Brown babies and interviewed about 40 people. I was not one of the people interviewed, she doesn't mention me in the book because we did connect at a later date. Um, but I was just, I thought I was bad off until I started reading some of these stories, some of the interview that she gave, you know, the interview that she undertook and how sad a lot of their lives were and how many of these children were put into homes, the mothers, uh, you know, uh, didn't keep them for whatever reason. Speaker 2 00:11:10 So, uh, and I thought, I wish I'd known read this story before my mother died, because I would have told her, you know, how brave she was to keep me, because here I was in the middle of the family. I mean, if she'd have had a baby with a white American, you know, you could pop me in a pram and nobody would have noticed, but, you know, I stuck out like a sore thumb. And so there she was, I mean, it was like having a, you know, a red sign on a forehead, but she, you know, she kept me and didn't treat me any different. Neither did Harry Ben. My stepfather mean he, he was not the most wonderful man, uh, in fact, quite cruel, but he didn't treat me any worse than he treated the others. So that was, that was one thing in his favor. Speaker 1 00:12:10 You're listening to the plastic podcasts. We all come from somewhere else, find out [email protected] as a biracial girl in a white household. Paulie Nevins was obviously going to be looked upon as different. The fact that that family was an Irish one in post-war Wellingborough made that difference. Even more accentuated. I wanted to know how her Irishness affected her childhood Speaker 2 00:12:35 Irish part about it. My first inkling that other than my, excuse me, my mother's stepfather's accent. My friends would say your, your mother has an Irish accent, which I never noticed. Just like when kids tell me when they were growing up, people used to say your mother's got an English accent and they would go, she does, when you're used to hearing it, you don't notice it. But it was when I was very little, we used to get packages from Ireland that were coming in, wrapped in Brown paper, and they had string on them and my mother opened them up and there would be butter in there. I remember that we'd be butter and cheese. And one year, just before St. Patrick's day, she had, there were these little plastic harps shapes, and there was a Sprig of Shamrock, fresh Shamrock, and she pinned it. I remember very distinctly, she pinned it on my jumper and off, I taught him to school. Speaker 2 00:13:29 And I could just imagine the teachers thinking Irish and because, you know, obviously didn't look typically Irish. Uh, so there are those memories. And of course there's a memory that we always had Irish largest come to stay. I mean, we lived in a very small council house, but, you know, and sometimes I come down in the morning and there'd be a different head that will pop up from the couch. And there was these young Irish men that would come over to England to work, and then they would go out for a drink with, uh, Harry, my stepfather come back, slightly sloshed. And then we had an old piano in the living room that they hang out a tune and, or sing on a penny whistle and they'd sing their Irish songs. So I did have that connection like that. Uh, maybe didn't internalize it, but it was, it was definitely that too. And I, to this day, I appreciate R's music very much. Speaker 1 00:14:24 And is that something that you come back to nowadays? Speaker 2 00:14:29 Well, every Saint Patrick's day, I play my Irish music, uh, and I'm, uh, I actually cooked, we're going to have Columbia and cabbage tonight and potatoes and carrots. And I did call and I could Colombia last night because there was so much of it. There's just my husband and I, and it didn't turn out as well as it usually does. It was a bit tough, but we're going to, I Speaker 4 00:14:52 Told my husband, we're having it again tonight, cause there's a lot of it, but we'll do that. And, uh, and then I'll play Irish music. And for the longest time after my mother died, I would cry ever since Patrick's day. So, uh, fortunately the years have gone by and I managed to keep it together. Now, Speaker 3 00:15:10 One of the reasons that psycho this is called the plastic podcast is because of that notion of being plastic patties and the idea that you're not necessarily authentic. Did you have that yourself with psych being either treated as not, not fully Irish or not fully black? Was, was, was there a question of authenticity there? Speaker 4 00:15:26 Oh yeah, very definitely. Uh, there is an on, on the black side, uh, I'm here in the United States. I do not have a black American experience. I mean, even though my father was born here, uh, I don't have that experience. And so I, I don't feel like I can speak to any authority about the black American experience. So I'm really not part of that. And on the Irish side, the same thing. Uh, but you know, I've always been of the mind that I'm just a person and I'll embrace like on Patrick's day, I'll embrace my Irishness. Uh, and if people talk to me about racial, uh, events, I will claim and talk about my experience as somebody biracial and, uh, and even more so now because of the fact that I finally was able to find out the name of my biological African-American father. Speaker 3 00:16:29 What did that show? Because, because, um, with the first edition of fudge, you, you kind of finish on. So like, uh, I, I'm still looking for my biological father. And then in the, in the, uh, in the latest edition, there's like a, an up-to-date, up-to-date part of the story where, where you're actually connected to him or connected to his family at least. And it's, um, uh, Leroy Coker, isn't it? Speaker 4 00:16:49 Yes. I mean, it began, I mean, for years I was searching for it, but we didn't have a name. I mean, how do you track someone down without even a name? So it was really a fusel search, but it was one I continued to try to do. And then in 2006, they had this sale on Ash, uh, ancestry.com. And my daughter was always up for everything said, mother, we've got to do this. So anyway, we sign up for answer. I see send off our DNA and it came back, but she and I, uh, were, uh, connected. So we laughed at that and thought, well, it's authentic. Anyway. Cause it said that there was a, uh, a high chance that we were mother daughter. And so 2006, I get all these connections, but they were mostly third and fourth cousins and nothing really panned out. And then in 2019, uh, I got this notice from ancestry that said first or second cousin match, Speaker 2 00:17:51 That was the closest match I'd ever received and all that time. And I'm like, so I contacted this person Nelly and told her about myself. And I mentioned the memoirs of bookie. She can read a little bit about me and know I'm not some weirdo. And she got back to me and she said that all up, that her father and her uncles, uh, she checked and they only one of them, Oh, she said her father was not in England at the time that I mentioned and none of the others, but she said there is one uncle that was in England about the time that you were born. And, but I cannot divulge anything until I contact my cousin who would be his daughter, my half sister, if that worked out and she contacted me and my half sister and she sent me a photograph and I'm sitting at my computer waiting for this photograph to upload or download whatever you call it. Speaker 2 00:19:03 And it started with the boots. And I'm like for crying out loud, how many years have I waited to see the face of my father? I didn't, it starts off with the booze. So the boots came up, which were all very shiny, very nice. And then came the legs, his trousers. And it had a nice pleat. I thought, Oh, very smart, because I'm very judgmental, you know, or very smart and on and on, it came up until I finally saw his face. And I mean, it was very emotional and, uh, that family has been wonderful. Coincidentally, and this is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, coincidentally, they were having a family reunion that, uh, in, uh, July of 2019, and she invited, Tina said, my daughter said we got to go. Cause she was like I said, she was up for everything. So we went and honestly there was a whole family there and they were just wonderful. And my father's two sisters are still alive, but she was a big gap, big family, big gap in age. And they were just wonderful, very welcoming. Speaker 1 00:20:14 Is that a strange thing? It's like, hello, I'm your brother's daughter from, from the second world war. Speaker 2 00:20:25 The great thing about it is, you know, it's not like I wanted anything, you know, it's not like, Hey, I'm showing up and Oh, by the way, I want some of the inheritance or anything like that. You know? So I think that because of the age I am and the age they are, uh, and because they're mature people, they were very welcoming and, Oh, just wonderful. And Speaker 4 00:20:48 Uh, the lady, uh, Nelly, who was the cousin was on ancestry. She and her daughter came to visit a few months later, California, uh, stayed with my daughter and then my sister, uh, Carol, why don't you to come, uh, last year? And of course COVID stopped that, but they plan to come next year, stay in touch. They telephone the email. And they've really been very welcoming Speaker 3 00:21:15 Going back to your family in England. There's, there's Betty, who's your mom. And then there's, uh, Harry Bian, who you refer to as the old man, uh, in, in the books. And what strikes me, uh, in particular is just how impoverished everybody seems to be. I mean, it's not like, uh, none of the, uh, again, it's, it's a world away to a certain extent. And I'm sure at the time you probably didn't feel as though you were particularly poor, but it does. It does. It does feel as though psycho life was much more of a struggle. Speaker 4 00:21:47 It was. And I think a lot of people, they weren't as bad off as us. I, lot of people didn't have a lot, so we didn't have the feeling of being impoverished, but we were, I think poorer than most, just because, uh, the old men drank the money away and we didn't have much money. Uh, and so we kind of relied on family allowance. I don't know if they still have that in England now, but you know, once we had a coupon book and then you took that coupon to the post office once a week and it was a lifesaver, you know, we could then put, like mother said bread on the table. Uh, so that got us through that. And then, um, neighbors were great. We had a lot of people who would give us their car staff clothing. I had a girlfriend who was mixed race like me. And, uh, she was the only child and she had nice things. And so she would give me her dresses. So we got through it that way. Uh, but I think it would have been even worse if everybody around us had been much better off than us, they were better off, but not, there was not a huge gap. So I don't think we felt that the poverty, you know, as much as we might have that we were bread and dripping. Speaker 3 00:23:01 It also strikes me that it was quite, uh, uh, uh, I'm going to say violent household, but certainly it's like, um, they never seemed to be a dull day. Speaker 4 00:23:10 You know, you've kind of hit it on the head. There never was a Dell day on my girlfriend, the only child that I just mentioned, Dawn, she even come down, she lived in a prefab up the Hill. She would come down to visit and she loved our house. She'd go pull in. There's always something going on and I'm not. Yeah. Right. And I would run up to her house because I loved the peace and quiet, but there was something going on and that's because the number of children and also because, uh, there was so much tension between my mother and the old man. I mean, I don't know when they were happy. Uh, but there certainly wasn't any sign of it as I age of consciousness. And there was not any affection. There was no affection given to the children. I mean, I mentioned, I think I said it in the book that the fact that I went away to America, I could find to give my mother a hug to say goodbye, because there was not, you know, that there was not that affection, not to the children, not amongst themselves and uh, for a long time, uh, we didn't know that, that they would not married. Speaker 4 00:24:18 And we know then when I look back, I think, well, you know, there were no photographs. Speaker 1 00:24:23 Well, there's more than that. Isn't there. It's not just that they th th th they weren't married. Speaker 4 00:24:30 I know. I mean, I know when I think about it, you know, you wrote it, you put it out there for the world. I mean, it's a wonder, my family is speaking to me. Speaker 1 00:24:40 Do you want to talk about this? Speaker 4 00:24:43 It's too late. It's too late. It's out there. The dirty laundry is hanging on the line for all to see Speaker 1 00:24:50 <inaudible>, we'll be back with Pauline Nevins and the end of that cliff hanger in just a moment. But first it's time for the plastic pedestal, where I ask one of my guests to talk about a member of the diaspora of personal political or cultural significance to them this week, Adrian Lanae pays tribute to a particular musical guru. Speaker 5 00:25:18 Oh, my plastic pedestal is a guy called Brenda Malka. He's, um, he's a musician and he's a teacher of Irish music. And for me, um, he really brought the tunes alive. Um, uh, and to date, he's the best fiddle player. I know you'd have a hard time finding me on the internet. There are, uh, there are fatalism traditions, uh, well beyond him. Um, however I would say, um, that he is like somewhat, he's a kin without flying too high with the metaphors. He's like a Keith Jarrett or a bill Evans in relations to the music. Um, in that he, uh, in that those guys pick up, um, the beauty of the music kind of T of, of the tunes. And they work off a similar profile in that they are playing the American, the great American songbook, the show tunes, the jazz standards, and they're interpreting them, um, with ultimate musicality, I think, and, um, turning up to blacks road on a wet Tuesday night. Speaker 5 00:26:31 Wasn't always very easy. And I did miss a few classes I have to say. Um, but, um, listening to Brendan play was what was worth it and more was w was worth, um, you know, getting wet and all the rest of it. Um, uh, simply for his interpretation of the melody and the rhythm and his kind of deep schooling, if you like in the tradition of Kaylee, from his father's band to kill for Nora Kaylee band. And I know of that, um, all of that became available in the moment of the class, which is, um, which is a great thing really. And, and, and, and non-literary a non-literary tradition is, is a rare thing. And, and just, just for that element of unknown, I think I would put him on the pedestal really. Um, and for revealing that the business of music is inexhaustible and the it's it's when you, when I'd watch him playing, it would be almost like watching someone drink from a cup of the eternity or something. Speaker 5 00:27:48 That sounds the gift that keeps on giving. Let's say that, um, uh, it's sipping from that. And because actually to play, to do that stuff for a couple of hours a night is physically very demanding. I mean, just to hold that thing under your neck is demanding, playing anything, you know? Um, uh, so, uh, so all of that I think was, was revelationary to me really, in terms of musicians and musicianship, you wonder where it comes from. Well, I think I have a few more hints with Brendan now, you know, where it does come from in the house and how to, and how to make it happen. Speaker 1 00:28:29 Adrian Lany, they're talking about the late Brendon Mulcaire. And if you want to hear more of Adrian's own fascinating story, and why wouldn't you or indeed any of our tales of the Irish diaspora simply go to the episodes page on our website, www.plasticpodcasts.com while you're there. Why not subscribe that way? You'll never miss out on another now back to Pauline Nevins and that cliffhanger it's time to unveil the dirty laundry. Now pay attention. This does get complicated. Speaker 4 00:29:00 We didn't, you know, I didn't find that out. I mean, uh, uh, thought we, I'm not sure we knew what was going on, but I didn't find it out for Setton until my daughter second marriage, she was going to go to Ireland as part of her honeymoon. She was going to Ireland and Europe with her new husband. And so she contacted, she went on the internet to look at Castlebar to see maybe there was some relatives and she could pop in and say, hello. Well, then she says, she emailed me. He goes, mother, you got to look at this. There is someone that is looking for a Kate and a Henry being, of course my stepfather was hiring bean. And, uh, she said that the, the woman's name was keto tool. Well, I knew that my mother's half-brother, uh, Jim O'Toole would come to visit us. And so there, I thought there's gotta be that connection. So I emailed him, Michael, I emailed him and, uh, you know, it all came out. He was Harry Bean's grandson, my stepfather's grandson, and Harry actually had three sons in Ireland who, uh, were the children of ki and Kate, my mother's Hof system. So we're like, Oh boy gone. And so then, you know, researching, uh, and, uh, delving into it anymore, we got, we kind of got the full picture Speaker 3 00:30:45 Of what was the full picture there? Speaker 4 00:30:48 Well, the most we can gather is that they may have come over from Ireland, either separately or together, uh, lived in London for awhile. My mother had her first child gave actually birth to her first child under the bed, during the blips. And then she was evacuated out of London during the war, uh, had her second child in Russian and then moved to Wellingborough where the rest of us were born. And, you know, they th they either were, got to get, they must've gotten together when they were in London, because my mother's first child, all children, except me were the children of Harry. Speaker 3 00:31:29 Um, but you, you, you say that no, no, no. The herring and all your mum really talked that much about their pasts. I mean, evidently there's a reason for that. Speaker 4 00:31:40 Yeah, no, no, they did. They did not say a word. The, the only relatives we saw, uh, Harry's brother bill lived in London and had three daughters and they would come up and visit. Of course we never heard anything else. It was bill, uncle bill would come. And then my mother's half brother Jim would come. He, he immigrated from Ireland to London. And, uh, he was, he was very devout. He would go to church, you know, even when he came to visit my mother, he would walk all the way to the Catholic church, which was several miles. Every Sunday. He was very nice to me. And in fact, I, I write in the book that he would have me, I, on his shifts because my mother did all his laundry. He came with a suitcase of Washington. My mother would wash his clothes and then he would eat. He'd have me iron, his shirt. And I scorched his collar every time. And then he'd slip me a half a crown on his way out the door. It was. And I think he singled me out because I was not Harry's daughter who he hated. Speaker 3 00:32:41 Gotcha. I mean, so what, what, what gets beers? That's like a, certainly look at looking at my own family, keeping a secret within it. It's a fairly difficult thing to do. And yet you still had relatives come on over and they wouldn't talk about things. Speaker 4 00:32:52 Yeah. But we, we never heard anything. And in fact, my brother, Kevin, and I would say, you know, all we knew is bill would come up from uncle, bill would come up from London and we never heard any more. Uh, you know, we did not know. And still to this day, uh, we don't know much about the family of, uh, Harry. We knew he had an uncle, uh, on the brother, bill. We don't know how many other children, because Kevin hasn't looked into it. I had somebody research my mother's side and not have a booklet that talks about, you know, the family on her side. And I do have a photograph, which I treasure of my grandparents, my mother's mother and father, Speaker 3 00:33:34 Your mom came across. We know this much that she came across at 17. Speaker 4 00:33:38 Nice to be around in going back through the dates. It must've been, uh, she might've been a little older than that. Uh, I'd have to go back and look at the dates, but she, yeah, she would not be, she wasn't very old when she came over Speaker 3 00:33:51 And we know that what, she went into housekeeping for a family or something like that. Speaker 4 00:33:56 Yes, I did find that out. I'm not sure where it came from, but I think she worked, you know, a lot of the young Irish women would come over and work as domestics. And she worked as a domestic in a co in a Jewish family. And that is about all the detail I know about her life in London, other than her giving birth to Sheila, my oldest sister, who was born with one arm and she, and like I said, moved to Russian and then Wellingborough, and, uh, did not know, I don't know much about those details about who she was, you know, what she did in London. Other than that, what was it that he did? He worked on the railway, uh, in Willingboro he worked on the railway. Uh, and in fact, and, uh, he, I don't know how much of this. You could maybe you'll cut it out. Speaker 4 00:34:52 But anyway, uh, my mother, um, and when, uh, she had, uh, was seeing, or I don't know how much she was seeing, but she, she had this, she started working when my youngest sister was about five. When she was in school, my mother worked at a hospital as a nurse's aid, and she met a man. And, you know, she's always, she'd been unhappy for a long, long time. So he has, she meets this English guy that treats her nicely. I'm sure she probably just loved it. And, uh, so they kind of got together and then Harry found out about it and took his railroad spanner and whacked him over the head one day. And he had to go to jail, poor Sid, who was my mother's ended up being my mother's husband later on, uh, whacked him over the head could have killed him. And so Harry was in put in jail for awhile, and then he went back to Ireland. So that was, that's where he ended up dying in Ireland. Speaker 3 00:36:00 There's a, there's a, there's a, there's a couple of things there, which is that you mentioned that, um, both your mother and Harry, uh, whilst they weren't necessarily happy, uh, in their relationship, they, they didn't treat you to any, I get moments, some psycho, maybe Harry taking you, taking you by the hand or walking you that down the street and so forth, knowing full well that psych, it's not just your mom who has a brand upon her, but also he has that brand upon him. It must have taken something. Speaker 4 00:36:29 Yes. I absolutely agree with that. Uh, and the fact that you didn't treat me any different, and I do remember that it just shows you how rarely those occasions must have happened, because I remember walking down the street with him, hand in hand, and he would have been the kind that wouldn't have given a fake. Anyway, my mother was the same way. She, she did not care what people thought she led, uh, obviously, uh, led her life the way she wanted to lead it. And if people didn't like it, they give them, Speaker 3 00:36:56 Is that something that you share or, or, or do you re react against that and, uh, much more concerned about people's people's thoughts about you about appearances? Speaker 4 00:37:06 I'm not, I'm not quite as brave as no, I am not quite as brave as my mother. I do care about a parent's. It's not going to be quite judgmental too, as my children have reminded me. So, no, I'm, um, I'm quite conservative in that respect. I, I'm not real thrilled about that. And I would not have had, I don't know if it takes courage to follow your own path or not. It had some very detrimental effects for all of us, because, you know, she was in a relationship and unhappy one for a number of years, which obviously is scarred each of us differently. Speaker 3 00:37:44 But in the case of you, of course, you have a very different path laid out for you no matter what, because again, one that you are a, a, a mixed race child, uh, in the, in the forties and fifties in particular, yes. Being mixed races is still an, um, a rarity. Speaker 4 00:38:00 Yes. And I, I feel fortunate that I was born in a small town because there was an, our whole neighborhood was just a one, I think just, I mean, and I had very few instances of being singled out by anybody. There was one girl in another neighborhood that used to throw stones at me when I walked home from school. I mean, I was always baffled by stuff like that, but otherwise the neighbors were wonderful. And I think it's because it was a small town, uh, I mean, when rush and a lot of the, um, like port, they had a lot of, uh, Jamaicans and West Indians, uh, but in our hometown, it was really the children of Americans. There were very few immigrants in that town. And so I don't think there was a lot of, um, animosity or people were not in their tribes. Speaker 4 00:38:55 I mean, we were just a bunch of little Brown kids running around and because we were part of white families for the most part, uh, we would not really, honestly, I don't remember being treated any any differently. Uh, and I never thought of myself as different, as I mentioned earlier, I did not walk around feeling biracial. And I just felt like everybody else. And it was only when people brought it to my attention that I realized I was different. It's a very strange phenomenon, really. And it just shows you how it's others that impose these, uh, views of yourself on you. Uh, not if, you know, I never really felt any different and when people bring it up, you know, I'm okay. It's, I'm not that affected by it. I don't know why. I think I might be a bit clueless. My mother used to call me a drip when I was growing up. And I think it's because I spent a lot of time reading my issues. She used to say, Pauline, get your head out of the book. That's not going to put bread on the table. And I think it was because I was kind of a dreamy child. And so maybe that was it. I was not very aware. So part of that work for me, I think psychologically, Speaker 3 00:40:17 Um, yeah, your, your, your story is like I was saying in the introduction as part of two exhibitions with, with, with the mixed museum, the, the, uh, AMR I one and also the Brown babies one. So, I mean, so how do you feel when, if you're talking about sort of the way that other people view you and so forth, how do you feel about that happening? Speaker 4 00:40:34 You know, I just don't think people, uh, I don't know if people feel the need to, to differentiate, uh, and are surprised I had a sister and I mentioned her in the, in the book, a sister who she's passed away now passed away, quite young in her forties. She was quite cruel to me, you know, very psychologically cool, you know, emotionally cool. And, uh, there was just something about her. I didn't, you know, I was, she picked on me, obviously. I was, you know, like a lightening rod. And after I left to go to the States, she turned to venom on, uh, our youngest sister. So that's when I realized it wasn't all about me. It was about her. And so when people say things to me or bring it to my attention, that I either look different, um, I look them, you know, what is it that's going on with them that there's, this need to put me in a box? Speaker 4 00:41:40 Or I remember reading an article that Meghan Markle was interviewed before she and Harry got together. And she was saying that when she was a child, she had to fill out a survey or something. And then there was the box where you have to tick what race you are. And she was concerned about that because she had black mother and white father. And she brought that up to her father, uh, which is ironic now, considering they're strange, but he said, make your own box, draw your own box, which I thought was a wonderful thing that, you know, you don't have to be in the box that someone decides for you. And that's, that's how I feel. You know, Speaker 1 00:42:32 <inaudible>, y'all listening to the plastic podcasts hashtag we all come from somewhere else, follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. It's one thing to talk about your family's past. Yes. Another to write about it and have it published in a book as Paulie Nevins did with fudge. I wonder what the reactions were from the rest of the clan, starting with her brother, Kevin, Speaker 4 00:43:01 We laugh about a lot of it. Uh, we'll talk about it. We'll reminisce about it. He has a very strong connection, I think with our, because both his parents were Irish. And in fact, uh, I went on Facebook this morning just to see, cause he usually posts something and he's got the Irish flag flying outside his house. Uh, yeah, he, in fact they used to call him Patty, uh, when he was growing up. Uh, so he has a very strong Irish connection and he goes to Ireland quite frequently. In fact, when we were there in 2018, uh, we met up with Kevin and his wife, Heather, uh, and uh, we traveled a little bit around to Ireland together with him, which was wonderful. But th you know, he's, he's like me, you know, he just says, that's the way it was Speaker 1 00:43:49 Children make of your crazy mixed-up heritage. Speaker 4 00:43:53 I think they love it. I think they see that, you know, it's theirs, even though it wasn't the best times, there's a depth to it too. I mean, there were these characters, you know, my mother was a character. Harry Bean was a character. I mean, they weren't boring. Uh, and then people that came in and out of our lodge where the Irish lodges, uh, and then the different, we lived in a very small neighborhood. So we knew things about the lives of the people, nearest, you know, the man across the street. Uh, I taught, he was the one that cut hair and his shed. Uh, that's where you went the barbers, that's where the boys went to get cut their hair down the street. And there was a little shed next to a house that was the cobbler. We took our shoes. They could afford to get new shoes. Speaker 4 00:44:38 He mended shoes. And it was just, you know, there were these characters. And, uh, so I think, you know, they've never acted ashamed. Uh, I think they quite enjoy the fact that I come from such a crazy family. My daughter is, is a lot like me. I mean, she'll, she will tell all that her feelings are more, I mean, even more so than mine, they're on her sleeve. She has a wonderful personality. My two sons are a little more private and you asked how my family felt about my memoir. They haven't said anything, but, uh, they don't talk much about it. And I kind of get the feeling that they're not quite as thrilled, you know, with me being so open about everything my daughter is because she is that way herself. But, uh, I think my two sons, they've never said anything negative. Uh, but, uh, I'm not sure they're real thrilled about tell them to, uh, my daughter's an attorney, an environmental attorney, and she just started teaching, uh, at a college. Speaker 4 00:45:52 So she does both, uh, my oldest son, uh, he, uh, was a professor at a college in Santa Barbara, and now he's head of that. Uh, it department, the whole colleges, it he's the director. And then our youngest son is the artist in the family. He works from home and he does digital art and, uh, was a fine artist. Uh, you know, when he was in high school, he started drawing and did beautiful work. And now he does a lot of the digital work. Um, so that's, that's his life and will they be doing anything well, mono my daughter, since she's married to a, um, a young man of Irish descent, uh, I'm sure he's going to be cooking up some Irish food and I, they, they live in Sacramento. So I don't know if they're going to go to a parade. I think it's sold this COVID thing is put a damper on a lot of things, but I'm sure they'll have an Irish celebration. My oldest son in Santa Barbara, uh, I think he, you know, I think he looks Irish. In fact, when we got a photograph of the Irish side of the family, he looked like one of the cousins, it absolutely looked like somebody had put him in there in the photograph because he, his hair is going gray now, but he has black light brows, very dark eyebrows, which I think is an Irish trait. Yes. Speaker 4 00:47:26 Yeah, he does. Yeah. Say no more as they say. And, uh, I don't think my youngest son, he, I think he's, uh, I am not sure he he's connected. I don't want to be honest Speaker 3 00:47:40 Looking at it, looking at the book and we've, we've both commented on just psych how different a world it seems to be. Do you think that things have changed hugely? Do you think some things have stayed the same? Speaker 4 00:47:50 I think there are major changes only because there are more people I think that are, are in terms of the racial side. I think more people are mixing the new spin ever before more. So I think in England, from what I can, from what I'm reading, uh, I don't think there's a lot of, uh, um, mixing, you know, of merit of racist as much in the United States as there is. There is in great Britain. I think, um, racial tensions in this country, even though the course, they occur in great Britain and elsewhere, I think they run a lot deeper here because of the slavery and the separation. Uh, uh, so I do think things are changing slowly. I don't think they're changing fast enough on, and in this country, particularly I think having a new president, having president Biden as a present, I think things are gonna change for the bachelor, you know, for everyone because of who he is and his attitude towards, uh, you know, civil rights for everyone and, and having everybody treated respectfully. So I do think things are changing, but very slowly Speaker 3 00:49:03 For the purposes of this podcast, of course, we're eager to point out the president by desires extraction. Speaker 4 00:49:09 Yes. So was Obama president Obama where we thought we was like, okay, how many more man had Kennedy before back back in the day? It's like, yeah, these Irish, they get around and they do well. Speaker 3 00:49:21 'cause, you're, you're, you're, you're a part of the, the RSD Astra. And you've also started going across to America. And, and also because you're because you're, uh, or you're being mixed race and so forth, I suppose it's a much more nuanced question, but it is what, what does being a member of the RFD aspirin mean to you? Speaker 4 00:49:38 Well, I think it's meaningful and more, I really do as I get older because, um, I think more and more about my mother and about her life. Um, and, uh, I think just as you get older, you do think more and more about your parents and your grandparents. So, uh, I think a greater connection and, uh, I hope my children too will stay connected. I know my daughter where, because of her, her husband and his family, and I don't know about my sons, whether they will, in fact, I think my oldest son might, uh, now I think thinking more and more about his connection to Ireland, um, he hasn't been there. I hope he will. I hope they both will. Uh, and, and maintain that connection. People, people in Ireland, people in America particularly are so proud to be Irish. Uh, they really are. I mean, they, they will claim that even, uh, you know, if, even if they're just remotely Irish. Uh, so I think there's a great pride in being Irish. Um, and, uh, I, I would have felt more connected had my mother and Harry stayed connected to Ireland. That's my one regret that they didn't and that we didn't go and visit there and, uh, stay, you know, stay connected with their family. And as we've spoken about there's reasons, why not? That I would've liked to have had a deeper connection. Speaker 6 00:51:16 I was just going to ask if your, if your mom could see you now, what do you think she'd say, Speaker 4 00:51:26 Well, first of all, she probably wouldn't be speaking to me because I could never have written that memoir. Uh, uh, if my, if my, when my mother was alive, no, I could not have, she would have given me a clip around the ear. Uh, she was not, as I said, she was not wanting to talk about stuff. So, but, you know, I think she would be, uh, would be very proud of me. I remember when I was a young girl and I did very well in school. I was a good student. She would never say it. She could never say it to my face that, but I, I remember walking down the side of the house one time and she was, she would talk to the neighbor across the hedge, you know, they would commiserate. And I heard her say, our Pauline is doing so well in school. And that made me so proud to hear her say something like that to compliment me. Cause that that was not my mother's way. So to get back to your question, I think she would be very proud of me. Speaker 7 00:52:39 You've been listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora with me, Doug Devani, and my guest Pauline devotees. The plastic pedestal was provided by Adrian Lany music by Jack Devani. Our website is www.plasticpodcasts.com. And you can email us, ask the plastic [email protected] The best podcasts are supported using public funding by arts council, England.

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