Chailey Heritage School Old Scholars Association
Maureen Fenner - With These Hands Maureen O’Sullivan (as was) contracted polio at three months in 1955. At the age of three her parents took her to Chailey and left her there, without warning. When she couldn’t stop crying her bed was wheeled into a cubicle and left there for days until she did. Sister May advised her parents not to take her home that Christmas because she was settling down so well! As Maureen said “We endured more emotional suffering than children should know about”. This was the old spirit of Chailey.  Those with power decided what was best for those without. Laetus Sorte Mea – or else. Brave Poor Things - not children. But as she wrote “having no alternative is a great reason for getting on with things, and so I did”. And this is her story. I was at first disappointed that only three of the eighteen chapters were about Chailey and surprised that there was so little said about her fellow inmates, However I persevered and read on with an increasing understanding that for some Chailey isn’t the end of struggle but just the beginning. Nothing in Maureen’s life has been easy or straightforward. Her dispassionate description of how each problem and solution was followed by yet another, became compelling. She is surprisingly frank about her relationships with the men in her life and her children. She writes with clarity and with succinct observations on disability and life in general I only read a couple of books a year now and I am glad that this was one of them. I recommend it to you and leave you with her final words. “We may have a long way to go, and the journey may at times be never ending, but it’s sometimes worth looking over our shoulder and seeing just how far we’ve come.” Ian Sowerby
Website design by Ian Sowerby (