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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 23 January, 2020

Playwright opens up about her father beating her as a child: 'There was always a reason'

Marion Wyatt described how her mother would keep a notebook of the children’s behaviour if her father was away at work.

Image: ADA

THE COMPLEXITIES OF the parent-child relationship can impact people right into their adult lives.

When there is an abusive element to family life, the scars can be deep and troubling.

It is a theme that playwright Marion Wyatt has come to know intimately in her real life and in her writing.

“There was always something that made me feel sad but I could never put my finger on it,” she told Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ Radio One today.

Her father beat her when she was just a child but she still loves him – and misses him. How does that work?

When she finally faced up to her less-than-happy memories of her father last year, she became extremely upset, she admitted.

Speaking to Tubridy about coming to terms with the violence she experienced in her childhood, the writer and theatre director said:

“I had come out of some intense work and it was coming into the Christmas and I wasn’t really looking forward to it and I broke. I can only describe it as a physical exhaustion but the more I tried to pull myself up and look forward to the New Year … I didn’t really want to face the world.

The day after St Stephen’s day I found myself crying to the point where I was just sobbing and sobbing and remembering that I used to do that as a child.

“I tended to go into a corner and just sob so I knew something was up and I made a call and got myself into some counselling.

“At each session I would come out worse then when I went in because the lady helped me to dig deep.”

Working through that violence with her counsellor, the 62-year-old said: “I could feel myself feeling like a little girl with her.

In that one moment I revisited every beating I could remember … I still remember thinking, ‘Why did you do it, why did you beat me?’

Wyatt said the beatings would happen for a range of reasons – such as her school results not being good enough or even if she messed up her clothes.

“If I wasn’t perfect, there was always a reason found to punish me.

He would take his belt to administer punishment. He would slap me across my knuckles with his belt … I remember the pain of those very much.

“It wasn’t every week … I felt it was something that was hanging over me.”

She also described how her mother would keep a notebook of the children’s behaviour if her father was away at work. She would be in trouble if her bed wasn’t made properly or for not sharing, or arguing with her brothers and sisters.

‘I still miss him’

Wyatt was also quick to point out that there was a very loving side to her father and she misses him since his death in 1975.

“You would feel so secure when he would put his arms around you and love you and tell you that he loved you.

I loved him very much and I miss him and I still miss him and I’m grateful for so many things that they gave me but that hurt me and stayed with me.

“It fills me with so much guilt, he was an amazing man … it was a part of him that I didn’t understand.

I was afraid that I would turn into him because people would say, ‘Oh Marion, you’re very like your Dad’.

Describing her own father’s upbringing, the playwright said, ”He was in a school where there was horrible punishment and he was dressed as a girl if he got his spellings wrong and he was beaten by his aunt with a brush.”

Appealing to parents listening to the show, Wyatt urged anybody who hit their children to stop:

“Stop it, you teach them nothing by hitting them and hurting them.”

Source: RTÉ Radio 1/SoundCloud

Marion Wyatt has written a play called “When We Were Young”, which is a fictionalised story based on her upbringing. 

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