Skeletons in the Closet

A few months ago I posted about the passing of my grandmother. As was reasonably common at the time of her birth her upbringing was slightly unconventional. Her mother died soon after her birth and she was raised by her grandmother possibly with her younger half sister.

It wasn’t until a month or so after her passing that we discovered Nana had other unconventional skeletons in her closet. It turns out that in 1936 in a large country town a 17 year old girl who would later become my grandmother gave birth to an illegitimate son. At the time being an unwed mother was not desirable. Nana was slightly fortunate in that her family supported her well at this time. Her son was kept amongst her  extended family until she married and set up a home with my grandfather and had started raising my father. Sometime during my father’s early childhood the secret son came to live with his mother. By this time he was about ten years old. Unlike his half siblings his education was limited and I believe he went to work as a farm laborer and timber cutter probably around the age of fourteen or maybe even earlier.

I remember him being at all our family gatherings when I was a child. My brothers, myself and my cousins called him ‘uncle’. None of us really knew how he was related to us and inquiries were always answered vaguely. No one seemed to know. It didn’t matter really.  In tying up the loose ends of Nana’s will my father came across this man’s death certificate and realised his true identity. It rocked my aunts to the core. They had been raised as strict Catholics, educated in a convent and found this image of their quiet, non-drinking, non-partying mother a lot to take in.

It made me wonder. What were the circumstances that led to this man’s birth? My grandmother had been a product of the crazy times that followed the WWI. Both her and my grandfather had grown up in gold rush towns. Nana had been part of what historians deemed “the servant class”, she worked as a housekeeper. The father of her first son is not named and will be a mystery forever. Cynical friends suggested that she had perhaps been coerced into having sex and then abandoned. Given her occupation this is possible.

Instead I would like to think it had been a more positive situation. When I think of this I imagine a forbidden love and clandestine meetings on street corners in the dark. Or perhaps she had a secret tryst with an employer. I think of her being wooed gently by an attractive man who woke secret desires in her body that she didn’t know existed. I imagine her lying awake at night remembering his kisses and her skin burning in the places he touched her.

Perhaps he took her in his arms and enveloped her with his body and the smell of him until she was weak with desire. As he kissed her neck he slid his manhood into her gentling her as she tensed at the first intrusion. After the first time they couldn’t get enough of each other meeting in corners and secret spaces until circumstances forced them apart.

My research showed that forced adoption had not been fully implemented in Australia until after about 1940 and so Nana was fortunate in some ways. Law and government agencies were not empowered to take her child away from her. With the help of her extended family and later, her husband, she was able to at least keep in contact with her eldest son for his entire life. It is not known if my grandfather knew of the true identity of the child that he took in. My grandfather died when I was quite young and at that time no one even considered asking questions about the identity of the secret son.


Image source: Sex Lies and Adoption

My research also showed, somewhat sadly, that the father of illegitimate children at this time was often not named because he would be as persecuted as the mother. Many official documents that I read condemned fathers for irresponsible parenthood, in some cases attributing a greater responsibility to them. Was this the reason the secret son’s father was not named? We will never know. One thing is for certain, this whole scenario proves that you always have to look out for the quiet ones.

This post is part of Wicked Wednesday prompt #410 The Twenties For more wickedness please head over and check it out. 


I have also contributed to Food 4 Thought for the first time this week. For a different look at the minds of sex bloggers I would definitely recommend checking it out!


5 thoughts on “Skeletons in the Closet

  1. I greatly enjoyed reading this fascinating account.of your grandmother’s illegitimate son. My own grandmother was illegitimate and spent the first three years of her life in an orphanage, where she remembered overhearing someone say, in hushed tones, that she ‘had been born out of wedlock.’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such an incredible history, and how wonderful that your grandmother could keep in contact with her son, even though no one else knew who he really was. Thank you for sharing something so personal 🙂

    Rebel xox

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing that story with us. How fascinating. My Mom sort of knew, but it was confirmed by a DNA kit I bought for her, that her father is not actually her father. I still don’t know much about that story, she is still bothered by the knowledge. Family Skeletons are interesting!


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