Life away from home

Ronald Leedham: Visits

Ronald Leedham was born in 1929 in India. His family moved back to England in 1931after Ronald contracted Polio. Ronald spent some years in Hospital as a young child after contracting Diptheria. When he was six he returned home to Catford for a short while to live with his father, eventually ending up living in ‘homes for crippled children’ run by the Shaftesbury Society, until he was sixteen.

Here Ronald talks about visits from his dad and being given the news of his mother’s death.

  • Ronald Leedham
  • Ronald Leedham


I can remember my dad coming to visit me, and they had a very poor visiting record anyway, but I can remember dad coming to visit me and he brought me one of those little train sets where you had a circle of rails with an engine and a tender and you wound it up with a key, and all that sort of thing. He brought me this and while I was playing with it on the bed, I can remember him saying ‘Your mum’s died, Ron’ and I can remember saying, ‘Is she?’ and that was all. I can’t remember anything else about that particular day, ‘cause I was so concentrating on this train set – you know what kids are like, and to be honest with you I’d been separated from my mother for so long.

That was the rules and regs: you will only see your child every six weeks if you’re lucky. And some kids didn’t have visitors at all, how they got on I don’t know. But he used to come every six weeks for a couple of hours and we had to go and see the superintendent, if I remember rightly, and he wanted to know where he was taking us. If he said ‘Oh I thought I’d take Ron down and we’d have a cup of tea in the town, in Sevenoaks,’ and he wanted to know which café we were going into because if it wasn’t up to scratch you might get a disease. I ask you. It was only afterwards when you think about it, you think 'who the hell?' Here we were in a warzone and he worried about us picking up a cold or something nasty while you were having a cup of tea.

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