It’s 1951 and rationing is finally coming to an end. But while Liverpool is recovering from the ferocity of war, a family is about to be torn apart…
Dora Rodgers is adjusting to a new life in Liverpool with her young daughters Carol and Jackie. After the fear of the war years and a difficult break up with her husband Joe, Dora is finally building a future with her children.
But then an unexpected knock at the door rips her family in two.
To Dora’s horror, Carol is taken away by a welfare officer to live with Joe. She is determined to fight for her child, but when a tragic accident leaves her mother in hospital, and shocking news from Joe breaks her heart again, she struggles to cope.
With her family in pieces and her marriage over for good, will Dora ever manage to get her daughter Carol home where she belongs?
The Forgotten Family of Liverpool is a brave and tear-jerking story of one woman’s quest to protect her family. Perfect for fans of Nadine Dorries, Annie Murray and Kitty Neale.
Title: The Forgotten Family of Liverpool
Author: Pam Howes
Published By: Bookouture
Publication Date: 26th July 2017
We are delighted to be able to share an extract of the book with you today.
The Forgotten Family of Liverpool
Kirkby, Liverpool, June 1952
Dora Rodgers looped her long blonde hair behind her ears, banged on the kitchen window and wagged a warning finger. Her daughters were squabbling over the doll’s pram again, with five-year-old Carol hanging onto the handle for dear life, while two-year-old Jackie screamed at the top of her voice. She turned back to the washing. It was over a year since her husband Joe’s departure from the marital home, following a breakdown in their relationship, which had seen dressmaker Dora sink to the depths of despair. She had since found within herself a grim determination to prove that she didn’t need him and could care for their daughters on her own. Sometimes though, like today, when she had housework and the washing to see to, as well as a skirt and blouse to finish making for one of her customers, it all felt too much to cope with. It was all right for Joe, living the life of a single man, apart from when he took the kids out for the day. He only had himself to think about.
She folded the dry towels she’d brought in from the line and laid them on the table, then picked up the basket of washing she’d just put through the mangle. One day, when she was better off, she’d treat herself to a new washing machine with an electric mangle on top, like the one her pal Agnes had. Agnes said it made washdays a doddle. Joe had told her he’d get her one, but she’d refused and said she’d buy one herself when she could afford it. Mam said she was cutting her nose off to spite her face and to let Joe pay for it. But Dora was stubborn, and she was already living in the house Joe had got through his job at the Royal Ordnance Factory; she didn’t want to take anything else from him.
She went out into the garden and dropped the basket onto the small lawn. Jackie hurled herself at her legs, crying. Carol, looking smug, was pushing the doll’s pram up the path towards the shed.
‘Carol, share. Let Jackie have a turn, there’s a good girl,’ Dora said, giving her youngest a comforting hug. But Carol chose to ignore her. Dora put Jackie down and went to stand in front of Carol, who scowled and rammed the pram hard into her legs, laddering a stocking. ‘Ouch,’ Dora cried, jumping backwards. ‘Right, you naughty little madam; go to your room, this minute.’
Carol let out a howl and stomped indoors, her plaits bouncing on her shoulders. Jackie gave a delighted squeal and ran to grab the pram. Dora watched as she pushed it up the path, her earlier tears forgotten. She turned back to pegging out her washing. Mam would be arriving soon. Maybe she’d take Carol to the shops with her. She was hard work that one, always had been, although now and again, when the fancy took her, she could be a proper little angel.
Jackie soon lost interest in the pram, just as Dora expected she would, and picked up some clothes pegs to hand to her mother. ‘You’re a little monkey, you are,’ Dora said. ‘You didn’t really want that pram at all.’ Jackie giggled and ran off with a handful of pegs. ‘Bring them back here or you can go and sit in the bedroom as well.’
‘Are they playing you up, gel?’ a voice called from a couple of gardens further along.
Dora looked up and saw her neighbour Dolly hanging over the fence. ‘Just a bit,’ she called back. ‘Though no more than usual.’
‘Not too long now before Carol starts school. Then you’ll have more time to relax with just your Jackie to see to. I miss our Alice, but I love the peace and quiet now she’s at school all day. I’ll pop down for a cuppa when I’ve finished hanging this lot out.’
‘Okay.’ Dora nodded, and rolled her eyes as she turned her back on Dolly. That’d be half the morning gone before she got rid of her, no doubt. Although her neighbour was kind and helped her out with the children, she could talk the hind legs off a donkey once she got going. Dora pegged the final tea towel on the line and went back inside to put the kettle on. As she spooned tea into the pot she heard the front door opening.
‘Only me, chuck,’ a voice called from the hallway.
‘I’m in the kitchen, Mam,’ Dora called back. ‘Just about to make a brew. Dolly’s popping round in a minute.’
‘Oh, okay, well I’ll nip to the shops while the pair of you have a gossip. Where’s our Carol?’ she asked, peering out of the back door and seeing only Jackie playing in the garden.
Dora jerked a thumb towards the second bedroom door. ‘Been a right naughty girl, look.’ She lifted her leg with the laddered stocking and a red mark where the metal pram had hit her.
Mam frowned. ‘That’ll bruise; you need arnica on it. I’ll get some from the chemist, and I’ll take Carol to the shops with me. We’ll have a bit of dinner in the café and then I’ll take her to the library. It’s story time this afternoon, she’ll enjoy that. Give you a break while Jackie has her nap.’
‘Thanks, Mam, I was really hoping you’d suggest something like that,’ Dora said. As the kettle whistled on the gas hob, Dolly knocked and walked in the front door.
‘Have a seat, Dolly, while I see to Carol,’ Dora said. She went into the bedroom where Carol was sprawled on the bed, her lips pouting and her cheeks red and tear-stained.
‘Sowwy, Mammy,’ she sobbed, holding her arms out.
Dora gave her a hug and lifted her off the bed. Her heart skipped a beat as she looked at her daughter’s woebegone expression. Carol was so like Joe with her soft brown hair and big hazel eyes, while blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jackie was Dora’s double. ‘Right, monkey; let’s have no more being naughty and I’ll let you go shopping with Granny. Okay?’
Carol nodded and wiped her snotty nose on her cardigan sleeve.
Dora sighed and led her contrite daughter into the bathroom, where she washed her face and brushed her hair. ‘Now no messing about, and make sure you hold Granny’s hand, or else.’ She lowered her voice as they left the bathroom. ‘Daddy’s coming for tea tonight, and he’ll want to know that you’ve been a good girl for me. All right?’
Carol nodded again and ran into the sitting room where her granny was talking to Dolly.
‘Come on then, Carol,’ Granny said, giving her granddaughter a hug. ‘Have you made a list, Dora?’
‘It’s on the table, with some money. I only want sausages, spuds and custard powder.’
‘Okay, chuck, we’ll see you in a bit.’
Dora closed the front door behind them and went to pour the tea. She handed Dolly a well-sugared mug, thanking God that sugar rationing was over. She offered her a ginger snap and sat down next to her on the sofa.
Dolly took two biscuits and put her mug down on the coffee table. ‘So, Joe’s coming for tea, is he?’ She tucked a straying red curl back under her turban.
Dora looked at her in surprise. ‘How do you know that?’
‘I heard you telling Carol.’
‘Oh.’ Dora took a sip from her mug. God, the woman had ears like a bat. She’d spoken to Carol in a low voice, or thought she had. ‘Yes, he’s coming to see the girls. He didn’t see them on Sunday because the band was playing out of town at an afternoon garden party.’
Dolly pursed her lips. ‘Was shewith him?’
‘I’ve no idea. I didn’t ask. I’m not interested even if she was. He can do what he likes now we’re separated.’ She being Ivy Bennett, who managed the canteen at the Royal Ordnance Factory where Joe worked, and with whom he’d had a brief relationship when Dora had suffered depression after Jackie’s birth.
‘She’s got a lot to answer for, that one.’
‘Yes, so you keep telling me, Dolly. But that’s Joe’s business now, not mine.’
After seeing Dolly out, Dora gave Jackie her dinner and then settled her for an afternoon nap. She switched on the wireless to listen to the latest episode of Mrs Dale’s Diary and sat down on the sofa with her sewing. Her little dressmaking business was making just enough to keep her going, along with the money Joe handed over each weekend. It was her ambition to earn enough eventually that she could tell him she didn’t want or need his contribution, but for now she had no choice but to let him help her out. As the theme tune for the end of Mrs Dale filled the room, Dora jumped to her feet and switched off the wireless.
She glanced at the mantel clock. Her mam and Carol would be back soon with the shopping and then she could start preparing tonight’s tea. It was not something she was particularly looking forward to. It still hurt her to see Joe; the overwhelming feeling of having been betrayed at a time when she was most vulnerable was still painful. She could never trust him again, no matter how much he told her he loved her and begged for her forgiveness.
She frowned as someone rapped loudly on the front door, interrupting her thoughts. Who the devil could this be? They’d wake the dead banging like that, never mind her sleeping daughter. She swung the door open and stared open-mouthed at the three men standing on the path.
One of them, a bespectacled middle-aged man, carried a briefcase and was flanked by two uniformed police officers.
‘Can I help you?’ Dora’s stomach turned over. The last time a police officer knocked on her door had been the day of Joanie’s death. Joanie, her best friend, business partner and her brother Frank’s late wife, had died over four years ago in a fire at Palmer’s factory where they’d both worked since leaving school. Dora caught her breath and grabbed hold of the doorframe for support.
‘Mrs Rodgers?’ the man in the suit asked.
‘Yes.’ She nodded, feeling sick. The solemn faces of the officers led her to expect bad news. ‘What’s happened? Is it my brother? Has he had an accident?’ Frank worked at the docks and was always telling her about the men who got injured on board ships and at the dockside. It was often a dangerous place to work.
‘May we come inside?’ the man asked.
‘Er, yes, of course.’ She held the door wide, conscious of the curious stares from passing neighbours. Thankfully Dolly wasn’t around or she’d be pushing past the men to get a front row seat. ‘Follow me.’ Her legs wobbling, she led them into the sitting room and gestured to the sofa and chairs. ‘Please, sit down.’ The officers remained standing behind the sofa. Dora perched herself on the chair under the window and laced her shaking hands together on her knees. ‘What’s happened?’ she repeated. ‘Has someone been injured?’
The man in the suit looked at her over the top of his glasses from his seat on the sofa, as though weighing her up, before he spoke. ‘I’m Mr Oliver, from the Department for Children’s Welfare,’ he announced. ‘You have two children, Mrs Rodgers?’ He glanced at a sheaf of papers he’d removed from his briefcase. ‘Carol and Jacqueline?’
‘Yes, oh my God. Has there been an accident? Carol went out with my mam a while ago, but Jackie’s having a nap in the bedroom. Is Carol okay, and my mam?’
‘As far as I know, your mother is fine, as is Carol. However, on her return home, I have an order here to remove Carol from your care and place her in the custody of her father, Mr Joseph Rodgers.’
‘What?’ Dora’s hands flew to her mouth. ‘There must be some mistake. Why would you do that?’
‘Mr Rodgers is on his way here, we contacted him at work.’ The man ignored her questions. ‘We are acting on information we received, and subsequent investigations, that lead us to believe that Carol’s general welfare is being neglected due to you being unable to cope with looking after her as well as your other daughter following the breakdown of your marriage and the fragility of your own mental state. Therefore, for her own safety, we are removing Carol from your care with immediate effect.’
Dora felt the room spinning. The next thing she was aware of was one of the officers lifting her up from the carpet; she’d passed out and fallen from the chair.
The other officer answered the door as she regained consciousness. Joe walked in wearing his work overalls and boots. The room stopped spinning and Dora screamed at him for an explanation, but she saw he looked as confused as she felt.
He shook his head. ‘I’ve no idea what’s going on. I got a call at work from the police to make my way here. What the hell has happened?’
The man explained the reason for his visit to Joe and handed him a form to sign.
‘This is ridiculous!’ Joe shouted, waving the sheet of paper away. ‘I’m signing nothing. Carol is well looked after by Dora. I saw her last week and she was fine, both my daughters were, in fact. Which idiot told you she’s being neglected? You need to get your facts right, mate, and go after them, not my wife. How am I supposed to look after Carol on my own anyway? I work, it’s impossible.’
‘I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to disclose who made the complaint. But following investigations, I do have the right to remove Carol from her mother’s home to ensure her safety. We have reports of Carol’s behaviour deteriorating due to her mother’s neglect. If you can’t look after her, Mr Rodgers, then I’m afraid I will have no alternative but to take her into care. This could result in her being placed in a children’s home or foster care and subsequently put up for adoption.’ The man spoke parrot-like, as though reading from a script, with no compassion in his voice at all.
‘Now hang on a minute—’ Joe began as the front door opened and Carol ran in, accompanied by Dora’s mam.
‘Daddy,’ Carol squealed and launched herself at Joe’s legs. He picked her up and held her tight.
‘Over my dead body,’ he muttered. ‘I’ll find a way.’
‘What’s going on?’ Mam stared at all the people crammed into the small sitting room.
Joe told her to sit down and took Carol into her bedroom to play. ‘Stay there, sweetheart, while me and Mammy talk with Granny. Try not to wake Jackie up.’
As he came back into the room Dora looked at him, unable to speak. She shook her head and her eyes filled with angry tears as she heard him quietly telling her mam what was going on. Who could possibly have reported her to the welfare? She didn’t think she had any enemies, other than Ivy Bennett, and even she wouldn’t stoop this low… would she?
Mam burst into tears. ‘I’ve never heard anything so daft in my whole life,’ she shouted at Mr Oliver. ‘My Dora’s a good mother. Her children are both looked after very well. There must be some mistake.’
The police officers shuffled their feet, looking uncomfortable. One of them moved forward to pat Dora’s mam on the arm but she shook him off.
‘Don’t just stand there, do something,’ she demanded. ‘And you need to get the doctor out, Joe. He’ll tell them our Dora is capable of looking after her daughters and that Carol’s safe and well.’
‘I’m afraid the doctor won’t be able to help you here.’ Mr Oliver tried to regain control of the situation. ‘Mr Rodgers, if you would like to get your daughter and anything you need to take with you. We’ll accompany you to your car.’
Joe shrugged helplessly and looked at Dora. ‘There’s nothing I can do. I should probably take Carol and get to the bottom of this. I’ll bring her home later once it’s all sorted out.’
‘That won’t be possible, I’m afraid,’ Mr Oliver said. ‘There is nothing further to sort out. Mrs Rodgers is to have no more contact with Carol, certainly for the foreseeable future.’ With that he repacked his briefcase and got to his feet. ‘If you’d like to get your daughter…’ he repeated.
Dora screamed that he couldn’t do this. She pulled on his arm but he shook her off and looked at the police officers. ‘Mrs Rodgers, don’t make matters worse for yourself. I can have you arrested for assault if you persist in obstructing me in my course of duty.’
Dora dropped to her knees, crying, the man’s words ringing in her ears.
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