Kathleen O'Malley confronts the painful legacy of her hidden childhood in the second programme in the six-part documentary series Flesh & Blood. Exploring the silent tragedies behind six extraordinary lives, Flesh & Blood asks to what extent we are controlled by the secrets of our past.
Kathleen O'Malley is now a successful and happily married Court Magistrate, living in the UK. But for years she concealed the terrible secret of her Dublin childhood: at the age of just 8, Kathleen was sexually abused by a neighbour, and infected with gonorrhoea.
It is, as Vincent Browne says, a "story of particular horror." Punished by the state for a crime of which she was the victim, the young Kathleen was removed from her mother, along with her sister, and sent to an industrial school in Moate, Co Westmeath. Held there until she was 16, Kathleen rarely saw her mother, and their relationship never recovered.
Kathleen fled Ireland at the first opportunity, building a new life for herself in England. With an exciting career as an Elizabeth Arden beautician, Kathleen travelled the world, mixing with the rich and the famous. But burying her past in the midst of this new and glamorous world, Kathleen carefully constructed a fictional life based on an idyllic childhood in Ireland. It was only years later, in a painful turning point, that she decided to confront her past, and vindicate her mother once and for all.
"Ireland robbed her of her children," says Kathleen of her mother, "and destroyed her." The result of over ten years research into her painful past, Kathleen O'Malley's memoir Childhood Interrupted was published in 2005, and forms the basis of this second programme in the Flesh & Blood series.