Joan's story

"I was moved around"

My brother and I were the last to be chosen. Can you imagine what it was like for us? standing there while complete strangers decided if they liked the look of us enough to offer us a home? I think I know how slaves must have felt on the auction block - and we were just 6 and 4 years old and a long way from our mother. the last couple didn't want me - just my brother - but I wouldn't let go of his hand, so they had to take us both.


They were Mr and Mrs Opie and they lived on a farm outside Penzance and had five children, two boys and three girls. The elder two boys shortly afterwards were drafted into the army. They were a very kind, warmhearted couple and did their best to comfort us by showing us the cows, sheep, chickens and various farm animals. They also showed me how they made butter and cheese. It was a strange world to move into. I had never seen so much green space before and found it somewhat overpowering.


We all lived in this farmhouse until the two boys left home and both my brother and myself were reasonably happy. The Opies' then moved into a smaller farm as they could not cope on their own. They said they would keep my brother but I would have to go as there was no room for me. It was at this point that I was told I would have to go and live with someone else. I hated that. I kept running back to the farmhouse to be with my brother until the lady I lived with - I cannot remember her name - asked to have me taken away. Once again, I was moved, each time I hated whoever was chosen to be my temporary guardian.


The last house I lived in remains in my memory today. This lady made me dress in her grown-up daughters clothes which were itchy and smelled of mothballs. I hated her for this. She also had a nasty dog that lived in the cellar chained to the wall in the daytime. She made be go down there to fetch the coal. She knew I was frightened of the dog. But one weekend, my mother paid us a visit, saw how nasty the lady was and took my brother and me back to London. The nightmare was over.


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