Whisper My Secret came about as an indirect result of my search for three siblings I did not know I had until my mother (Myrtle Rowley) died in 1995. My sister, Irene, and I were gobsmacked when we went through Myrtle’s things after her death. Papers in an old silver cash tin revealed my mother had had three children through a previous marriage, before meeting my father. None of us kids had ever had any inkling of a previous marriage, let alone three other children. There was little information in the papers we found and, knowing Myrtle to be a committed family person and a dedicated mother, we could not understand how she came to be separated from her first three children. So my search began.
First, I needed to try to locate the two brothers and sister whose names appeared on the birth certificates in the cash tin. It was not difficult to track down Myrtle’s first born, Ken Dopper (I call him Bertie in the book). He was living in Queensland. He told me that he had not thought about his mother in years but that one night recently, an image of a woman appeared before him. He thought it was his mother and when he described her to me it sounded very much like Myrtle. We established that the timing of the appearance of the image was very close to the time of Myrtle’s death. Perhaps it was an imagined image and perhaps it was coincidence but it seemed to give him comfort to think it might have been his mother trying to say one last goodbye.
Kenny was able to give me contact details for my sister who was living in Houston, Texas, USA and other brother who was living in Ballarat, Victoria. None of the siblings could tell me much about why they had not remained with their mother. They had grown up with virtually no information about Myrtle; certainly no accurate information.
I went to Albury, New South Wales (where Myrtle lived at the time of her first marriage) and tracked down Myrtle’s cousin. Lily (that’s what I call her in the book) was able to fill in some of the missing details. I contacted other people who were around at the time of my mother’s marriage. Somewhere during that process I decided to put Myrtle’s story into a book and Whisper My Secret was published in 2007.
What saddened me most was that my mother felt obliged to keep her early life secret from her family and all who knew her in Orbost, Victoria where we lived. That must have been a very difficult thing to keep silent about all those years. At first, I simply did not understand why she was secretive but in the process of writing the book I developed a deeper understanding of the complex issues that might have made it hard for her to speak about it.
In response to readers who wanted to know more about the lives of my three half siblings, I wrote a sequel called Mother of Ten. Writing the sequel has brought me an even deeper understanding of Myrtle’s life, both as a mother separated from her first three children and as a mother of seven children living in virtual isolation in the Australian bush.
Some Amazon Reviews of Whisper My Secret
This story of tragedy, loss, guilt and shame, topped by a mother’s love and devotion is one I highly recommend….5 stars
This is a very well written book. It is hard to put down once you start, you just want to keep reading to the end…5 stars.
It is a well written and very much worth the money to buy it. I’m ready for the second book to follow it…5 stars.
This is the kind of story that hurts your heart. But it’s also a story of love and new beginnings…5 stars.
My name is JB Rowley. My full name is June Barnes-Rowley, but friends started calling me JB many years ago. I live in Melbourne, Australia.