MARY Backhouse is aged 77. She lives in Canterbury, Kent. She was born in Huddersfield and adopted, aged four.
Now she feels it’s time to uncover something about the circumstances of her birth and the fate of her mother, and she has enlisted the help of her daughter, Madeline Jeffries.
“The (Meltham-based) Huddersfield and District Family History Society has been very helpful,” said Madeline.
“One of their researchers suggested that my mother should contact the Examiner to ask if you would consider publishing a photo to see if it jogs anyone’s memory.”
Mary is the child in the centre of the front row.
“If you look at what all the children are wearing, the outfits are all similar, and appear to be ‘hand knits’, possibly made by local ladies for a charity/community cause,” suggests Madeline.
“This would also indicate that she was in a children’s home of some sort until she was adopted as a four-year-old.”
The background to the story is that Mary was christened Galvin, taking her mother’s forename and surname.
According to census and electoral roll information, Mary and Bridget Galvin, probably Mary’s sister, were domestic servants for Leila and John McIlrath Gibson, who was the chief Medical Officer for Huddersfield.
Mary’s birth father’s name was Daniel Sullivan.
Mary gave birth at St Luke’s Hospital, Crosland Moor in 1935 and her home address was 60 Acre Street.
“We haven’t been able to find the adoption agency that arranged the adoption,” said Madeline. “If they kept records, that would be a help.”
Mary was adopted by Reginald and Stella Backhouse in 1939. Reginald was a student at Cambridge during the outbreak of WW1 – he trained as a pilot and was later wounded (the shrapnel in his arm was never removed).
He never returned to Cambridge University but married Stella and settled in Huddersfield, working for an insurance company, where he frequently turned down offers of promotion.
“I believe his experiences would lead to a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder today, but in those days you just bottled it up and got on with life,” said Madeline.
“Having grown up with Stella and Reginald Backhouse, Mary left Huddersfield for London in the 1950s.
“She married an Army officer, had three children and enjoyed military postings to outposts around the world.
“Following her divorce, she settled in Kent, where she now lives with her much-loved Shih Tzu.
“She has tried several times to find out more details about her adoption but with little success.
“Over the years stories and TV dramas about the plight of young pregnant Irish girls forced to give up their babies and work in, for example, laundries, have led her to speculate about her own history (especially as she was born at Crosland Moor, the old workhouse).
“This time, she has found out more about where her mother was working (for the Gibsons in Acre Street) but she would love to know what happened to her after 1939.”