The Baby In The Biscuit Tin


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175 in stock


By Kathy Lavelle

ISBN: 978-1-78382-089-4
Published: 2014
Pages: 179
Key Themes: Mental Health, Mental Illness


This is Kathy’s story written in the first person. It is a tale of strength and courage, endurance and survival. Kathy is a sixteen-year-old girl in the 1950’s, who has been sexually abused by her uncle and eventually becomes pregnant and gives birth to a baby boy. To avoid the disgrace of an illegitimate child, the family claimed the baby was stillborn, although Kathy is convinced that he was born alive. They put him in a biscuit tin and buried him in the dark of night in an un-consecrated graveyard. Kathy was removed to a mental asylum on the strength of a doctor who had never seen her but only on the word of Father Lynch, the local parish priest who in those days had all the authority to speak. The birth of the baby was kept secret outside the family. There are many twists and turns in the story and later we find out a lot about Father Lynch’s own personal life.

Over the fifteen years of her incarceration, Kathy witnesses the violence and various mental illnesses of other inmates. In the asylum, “The Manor”, the enormous, rambling building high in the mountains, Kathy was completely cut off from the rest of the world. She was befriended by Meg, an inmate herself who had also been wrongly incarcerated. Meg had been a teacher in the outside world and taught Kathy to read and write and eventually encouraged her to write her story.

The old doctors had been harsh and unhelpful playing along with the system but along came Charles, a younger psychiatrist who was determined to see justice for those who had been wrongly incarcerated. He had a particular interest in Kathy’s situation and discovered some vital new evidence regarding the birth of the baby.

About the Author

Kathy Lavelle was born into a small British rural community whose main source of income was generated through agriculture. In the 40s and 50s, she was saddened by the inequality in her community, especially the exploitation of the poor, the uneducated and the mentally challenged individuals with whom she grew up. She witnessed the abuse and injustices that were often done to young people, especially orphans and young pregnant girls, who had been taken advantage of or manipulated by a community dominated by the churches and the so-called pillars of society. Sadly there were times when the church could become a strong voice in the community and worked alongside a Mental Health system that operated with all of these in a manner more akin to a secret society of sorts.

Kathy later spread her wings and moved to London where she qualified as a teacher, then took an Open University BA Degree, a Masters Degree in the study of Special Educational Needs, and after her retirement she studied for a BA in English and Creative Writing, which led to this her first novel. Throughout her career, she taught in Nottingham, Ireland and California. She was a primary school Principal in London for the final twenty years of her teaching life.

Kathy has been married to Michael for 43 years. They have four children and five grandchildren. She is now a Chaplain and voluntary hospital worker in East London and works with the homeless in Westminster. In her limited spare time, she has a keen interest in playing bridge.

Book Extract

My hands were tied hard behind my back.

“You’ll be back,” Nana said as she squeezed me close to her warm body.
I could feel her heartbroken sigh.

“I have stitched something into the hem of you dress,” she whispered.

Nothing will ever be as painful as those last moments on the doorstep. Nana stood there to say her final goodbyes but father grabbed her roughly and pushed her into the house. I imagined I could see her thin face through the small bedroom window but, handcuffed, I couldn’t wave. I nodded and did my best to smile. Looking around trying to see her, shapes and shadows swam before my eyes and soon the window was out of sight. That was the last time I ever saw her. I had tried my best to remain cheerful for her sake but when we rounded the bend I burst into tears.

The van accelerated smoothly taking me away. I looked out of the window and through my tears I watched the trees and fields and sky melt and merge into each other in a passing blur. The sun would never shine on my life again. As we gathered speed, my hands were still tied behind my back, my whole body hurt with discomfort and I knew I was still haemorrhaging from the birth.

“What have they done to Tommy?”

But I knew what they had done, wrapped him up in a piece of hessian sacking and put him in the biscuit tin, covered in brown paper like a package tied with thick twine and lowered into the ground. This is the one secret that will haunt me day and night. I tried to reach down and drag him out of the pit but a hand restrained me and I looked at the horror-struck faces around me.

I cried silently. There was no one to listen.

The car drove on through the cold January evening, away from home, away from Tommy, and we began the long journey across the Yorkshire landscape with bare, frostbitten hedgerows passing at great speed. In front of my eyes there was the flicking of the windscreen wipers on the misted-up windows. Later, I don’t know how much later, the road started to rise and for the first couple of hundred yards the slope was so extreme and the roads became narrow and twisted. We came to a crossroads and took the top of two roads and as the car crawled higher still and brought the sea into view at a distance and across the bay there were dark-green stretches with vague industrial shapes which were beginning to mist over in the background. The road continued onwards and upwards overlooking the sides of a deep valley.

I was beginning to see the awful power of fate, its deviousness, the way it could wipe out in an instant the things I had been certain I could rely on, my home, my little sister Rosie, Nana and Michael. He would marry some other girl. Someone else would walk with him through the purple heather and down to our stream where as children we had sailed our paper boats. She would be the one to hold his hand, to help with the baby lambs, to run laughing through the lashing rain to the nearest hut.

It was now a pitch-black night, with nothing to look at but the road ahead, lit by the occasional headlights of another car. The land rolled and dipped, climbing higher and deeper into the mountains towards “The Manor”. My prison! But they called it an asylum. What was an asylum? A sanctuary? A safe haven?”


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