Sins of the Father…Friday Fictioneers.

Nobody believed me. Not even my own mother. It was 1941. Yet, the Kennedys  were already an institution, inscrutable, and you could sense the Camelot legend peculating in the wings.

Of course, I could never say they’d made a mistake or got it wrong, especially when it came to one of their own. Yet, I’d nursed Rosemary Kennedy before and after the procedure, and knew her as she was. Such a beauty. I’d heard the rumours, but there was no justification. It was a crime.

Every week, I took her flowers, but her father never came. He didn’t make mistakes.

100 Words


Please don’t ask me how a photo of an asylum reminded of the tragic story of Rose Mary Kennedy, who was given a lobotomy in 1941 at her father’s request and spent the rest of her life in one. To read more about her story, you can click HERE.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll.

Just to account for my absence last week, I stumbled across yet another extraordinary family story and I’ve had to fully immerse myself in the details before I could even begin to understand or explain what happened.

In my last post, I wrote about my grandmother, concert pianist  Eunice Gardiner. Well, I’ve always known that her father was a Merchant Mariner with the Adelaide Steamship Company. However, I’ve known almost nothing about where he went and which ships he served on. So, I was quite excited to find a random newspaper reference online which placed him on a collier called the Dilkera which crashed into a small steamer, the Wyrallah in The Rip off Port Melbourne in 1924. He was Second Mate and a witness at the inquiry. Six men tragically lost their lives when the Wyrallah sank and many of them were married with young kids, so these deaths hit particularly hard. Daddy wasn’t coming home. It’s been quite interesting reading the inquiry reports in the newspapers and realizing just how fine a line there was between those who lived and those who died and even the fact that the accident happened at all. Indeed, if you only tweaked a few details, they would have remained two ships passing in the night.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a crash course on shipping protocols, geography, technology. While Melbourne’s one of Australia’s largest cities, I’ve only been there a couple of times and if I had to describe the city, I would’ve mentioned the trams, the Yarra River, fine dining, art exhibitions and the rag trade. I’d never thought of the sea port, even though we sailed out of Port Phillip two years ago when we caught the Spirit of Tasmania across Bass Strait and through this very same Rip which has claimed quite a few lives over the years.

Now, I’m trying to assemble all of the pieces and write the story.

Best wishes,


33 thoughts on “Sins of the Father…Friday Fictioneers.

  1. michael1148humphris

    Sadly lobotomy’s where hyped up as offering miracles. How the doctors could justify themselves beggars belief.

  2. gahlearner

    This is so sad. I’ve read about it. What doesn’t fit into the perfect (self) image gets cut out. Great writing, Rowena.

  3. Jelli

    Very very sad reality for far too many of that generation. Horrible! Just downright horrible. Great writing, and very informative, too. 🙂 ❤

  4. Rowena Post author

    It is very tragic. I hadn’t read about what happened at her birth before. Found it hard to believe the ignorance there but it was a long time ago. Just hold on baby. Doctor will get here one day. My mother had a very difficult birth with me and was in labour for 3 days because I was posterior and facing up (have always had no sense of direction). I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus in my 20s which I believe was brought about by my birth.
    In Rose Mary’s case to have a lobotomy just awful. I really felt awful reading about that. Wanted to throttle someone.

  5. Rowena Post author

    Thanks very much, Jelli. I learned too much working on the piece myself. You don’t want to be the guinea pig, do you!
    Best wishes,

  6. Rowena Post author

    So true, Penny. Her story certainly made me shudder. Sometimes, it must have clear advantages to come from an ordinary family.
    Best wishes,

  7. Rowena Post author

    Michael, you really have to be careful when you have a chronic condition and not fall for any instant quackery. There’s so much of it around. I have been lucky that my condition has gone into remission and stabilised aside from my breathing, which is a bit problematic. Some of these get well quick schemes are just as tempting and disastrous as the get rich quick schemes.
    Best wishes,

  8. Dawn Quyle Landau

    The whole story is incredibly tragic; it’s something that’s long interested me, so I’ve read quite a bit about the family. My first child, my daughter, was posterior as well, and took days of labor; it was brutal! Luckily, she has been very healthy otherwise. I’m glad there are so many good options for hydrocephalus now. Again, wonderful story.

  9. Rowena Post author

    I was only diagnosed with the hydrocephalus in my mid 20s and went down hill very rapidly but it took awhile to get an MRI at the time and so it was about 6 months by the time I had the shunt put in. It saved my life and aside from a few niggly things, I’m fine.

  10. Dawn Quyle Landau

    There have been amazing improvements and breakthroughs in shunts over the past couple of decades. It’s now possible (in most cases) to live with hydrocephalus and a shunt, with very few issues. Glad yours has been handled so well!

  11. 4963andypop

    Sad powerful bit of history. The history of disability really makes one pause. Horrible things have been considered justified or even normal. One does not have to go very far back, to reach a time when there was no right to an education, no modifications to the environment (think elevators, curb-cuts etc) in the US. Less than a lifetime. And Still today people struggle for something resembling equal treatment.

    Poignant, awful, horrible good reminder of what was.

  12. Rowena Post author

    Thanks very much, Linda. Sorry for my slow reply. I’ve been immersed in this story of my Great Grandfather being part of a collision between two ships in Melbourne in 1924. There’s been a lot to get my head around.

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