Kennedy, Helena (1 of 17) National Life Story Collection: Legal Lives

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The British Library Board acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors to this recording and the rights of those not identified.
Legal and ethical usage »

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  • Recording date

    2016-10-04, 2016-10-06, 2016-10-27, 2016-11-08, 2016-11-28, 2016-12-19, 2016-12-23

  • Interviewees

    Kennedy, Helena 1945- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Brodie, Louise (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: HK was born in Glasgow in 1950. Father Joshua Patrick Kennedy was of Irish ancestry. He lived with his mother and stepfather and was clever. Worked in a print shop but was given the job of managing a pub by its owner, Miss St John, which was a prestigious role in those days. When he went to fight in the war in 1939 she gave his wife, HK’s mother, money throughout. Joshua served in the Intelligence Corps and wanted to train as a teacher after the war, but felt duty bound to go back to the pub. Having lost his job there, he was unemployed, doing some labour as a despatch bundler for the print trade. They had two daughters born 1940 and 1941, a boy who died and then HK in 1950, a beloved child. [12:26] Mother was a doughty character, from a very poor family. Slum dwelling by the docks. Her brother, Father John MacGuire, was important to HK, raising her aspirations. Getting away from Glasgow meant becoming a priest. Stories of mother’s childhood and bombing of home during the war. They ended up in Strathbunglo till HK was 10, which was a tenement with an open “close”. They belonged to the Catholic community of St John’s. [23:26] The factor came to collect rent for the wealthy owner. It had two rooms and a kitchen, mother felt it was a palace. It had a toilet too. Parents slept in the kitchen in a curtained recess. They had a piano in one of the bedrooms and a grammaphone. The washhouse and the bathhouse were an important part of childhood. Description of them all sharing the same bath water. [30:43] They were on the corporation list for a house for 16 years. There was corruption in local politics. Details of other family members. HK’s sisters were clever but driven out due to poor living conditions. Moira went to London and became a civil servant, Pat had a cleft palate, surgery not so good in those days. They married young. [39:49] Father eventually got a job as a despatch man for the Daily Record, night shift worker. He died of lung cancer. He would go to the midday mass and HK would go with him. Parents very devout. HK loved the ritual. She went to the Holy Cross primary school in Strathbunglo. She loved her first communion and chose Maria Goretti as a confirmation name. The Catholic community was tight, they did not know Protestants. Mother had a Jewish friend who ran a delicatessen in the Gorbals. There were many Jewish immigrants. [46:40] HK’s mother was a magnet for people wanting advice. HK sat in a corner with a book, listening. Details of friends needing help, cash as well. Her mother’s brother went to Borstal and was helped later on. Parents were very good people [54:20] In later life, when HK met someone who had known the family, he commented that the girls had always been very well turned out. Memories of getting cast off clothes from a toff house. [1:01:40] HK loved school. Most of the teachers thought she was special, which is a gift to a child. She went to Holyrood, which had a selective system, with a qualifying exam at age 11. HK feels that a higher proportion got through than was the case in England. Just at that time, both grandparents died and Aunt Lena was alone and had a breakdown, so mother took her in. Father went to the council and they all moved to the house in Pollokshaws. Till HK was 18 and came down to London she never slept in a bed of her own, always shared, this time with Aunt Lena. Details of council house surrounded by green fields. When she was studying HK could switch off completely. The move was a big shift in their lives. [1:10:46] The Shaws was a working class area with no private houses. Anecdotes of derelict houses and street vendors with horse and cart [1:15:10] More details of living in the “close”. French words get into Scottish. Description of wash day on a Monday. Exhausting, so father made dinner (tea). They ate a lot of mince and potatoes and haddock and eggs. Few vegetables, tinned fruit. No fridge, no phone.

  • Description

    Life story interview with British barrister, Helena Kennedy, Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws

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