I’m a Bethany Home survivor and, at 74 years old, I’m finally happy
I AM ONE of the Bethany survivors group. I live in Sydney, Australia, which has been my home for the last 40 years.
I was born in the Bethany Home Rathgar, but I was adopted by a family from Belfast. This family was very wealthy, however I had a terrible life with them. They abused me on daily basis. I left their home at the tender age of 14 never to return.
I became an alcoholic
I got married and had three children, but I was a drunk. Life was terrible and I was in hospital many times. We came to Australia hoping for a better life, however I continued drinking. I was to meet an Irishman who convinced me that I could get better. I have not had a drink for over 30 years and thankfully, I have a wonderful life. I served as Deputy Mayor here and also assisted the Irish Olympic Team during the Sydney Games.
After starting the long journey to recovery it was suggested to me that I should look into my background as this was one of the many problems I had. I contacted a solicitor in Ireland and instructed him to find my mother and what had happened.
I never knew I was born in Dublin as the papers I had showed that I was born in Belfast. I found my mother, but regretfully she had died just months before. She had seven sisters and I made a very emotional visit to Castlederg to visit one of them. That was a wonderful time in my life as I discovered I had a family.
The mystery around my identity
I found that my name was Maurice Johnston, so I went to Dublin and obtained a copy of my birth certificate and went to Rathgar to look at where I was born. I have had some health issues and most of these according to my doctor were a result of my treatment in Bethany. I found out about Bethany Survivors group by accident when I was looking for information on Bethany and I came across Derek Leinster, Chairperson Bethany Survivors Group.
Derek has become a good friend and without his help my anger and depression would be a lot worse. He has himself taken on this task and I know I speak for all of us when I say he has helped a lot of people understand why they feel different.
One of the strange problems involves my passport. I applied for a visa to visit USA, but the passport office came back and told me that there was no record of a Paul Graham being born in Dublin nor was there any record of a Paul Graham being born in Belfast.
The only person that understood
Eventually, we finally got the visa. I spoke to the Irish embassy about this and they said that as I had an Irish birth certificate it was legally possible to issue me a passport under my name of Maurice Johnston however they said it could cause a lot of legal problems.
I often wished that my childhood could have been different; I would love to have been normal and become perhaps a doctor, however this was not to be. I am now 74 and I have the beginnings of dementia, but I am finally happy after all these years. I have three wonderful children who have stood by me and a wonderful wife of 53 years.
She is only person who has understood that I was not bad, just sick.