Preface

 

It’s a strange thing not to know who you are… where you come from, who your family were... and just how this came to be. On my eighteenth birthday, my birth certificate was handed over to me.

When and Where Born:
Found on the 10th August 1944, aged about two-and- a-half years,
in Snowsfields, Bermondsey, London.


Name and Surname of Father:
     Unknown.

Name and Maiden Surname of Mother:
     Unknown.

Written in the margin of the Birth Certificate – a word I’d never come across before, a word that was unusual enough for the Registrar to have put into inverted commas:
     “Foundling.”

A strangely eerie word, which for me… still evokes a feeling, not of something found…but of something irretrievably lost.

A search that I made in my mid-fifties would turn out to be as revealing about my adult life as it was about my troubled childhood. And twenty years on, at the age of seventy-five, when I came to write Please Look After Billy – there was a whole new element in the telling of my story. 

I spent most of my working life as a documentary editor – which crucially involved people revealing, in their own words, their particular contribution to a story. When it came to telling my own story, in print rather than on film – I maintained a vital aspect of documentary, that of recording the voices of my many contributors.

I would never have undertaken writing this book, if I hadn’t been able to accurately capture the insights of fellow-foundlings, family members, friends, therapists, archivists, childcare specialists, social historians, journalists, and so on. Even some of my own reflections, arose from adopting the same approach. From time to time, I would go up to my local park, and with the aid of a hand-held recorder…capture whatever my mind felt ready to explore.