minute 50

1st January 1930

I can’t believe it has already been six months since I moved to Edinburgh, to live with my dear Aunt Fiona and Uncle William. So much has changed since I left my old life behind. It is so nice to live in a big city, where no one knows who you are and what your personal history is. In my old hometown of Paisley, I was the talk of the town – a harlot. They called me names, changed the side of the street when they passed me; no one wanted to have anything to do with me. How could I live with what I have done? Bring a child into this world at this young age, out of wedlock, not telling anyone who the father is. I didn’t want anyone to know who he is; it would have just made it worse for all of us. My poor parents did not know what to do with me. They were so disappointed when they found out about my pregnancy. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had sent me away - after all I brought shame to our family. But I was so lucky that they decided to stand behind me, and still let me live with them, after my child was born. How many times did I wish for something to happen to this bastard inside of my womb? I just wished for it to end, or even better to make it all undone. When the first contractions came, I was overcome by fear – I just didn’t want to bear this child into this cruel world. But when the birth was finally over, and I held my little daughter in my arms for the first time, all of the fear was gone and it was replaced by love – love for this beautiful baby. I named her Alison, after my great-grandmother. The date of her birth, the 6th of April 1921, seems like it was yesterday; but 8 years have already passed and she has grown up so much.

When my uncle William told me that his firm was looking for seamstresses, and I could come live with them, I was very hesitant. I didn’t have enough money to take Alison with me right away and it would have been hard to care for her on my own, without my parent’s help and to work at the same time. But the money I would earn there would be so much more, than what I was earning in Paisley, and it was my chance to finally get away from this dreaded place, where everyone despised me. So I decided to take up the offer, and move in with my aunt and uncle. Heavy heartedly, I had to leave Alison behind, and let her live with my parents. My plan was to move her in with me, when I have settled in and have a steady income.
Last month I met someone – Robert. We fell in love instantly, and he asked me to marry him after only three weeks. He loves me, even though he knows about my past. I would have never met someone like him in Paisley. This made my plan to move Alison to the city even easier, as we could both move in with Robert, as soon as we get married. I’ve sent her and my parents a letter last week, to tell them the great news and to invite them to the wedding. Letters have been the only channel of communication between us for the last six months, and I was glad about the possibility to see them soon. Yesterday, I received their reply; they told me, how happy they were for me, and even though they will miss Alison, they are overjoyed, that she can live with her mother again. They also told me, how well she was doing in school, and that they were planning to see a movie at the Glen cinema on Hogmanay.1 Alison has never been to a cinema before, as we usually don’t have money to spare for entertainment, but they had a 2-penny special matinee for the holiday, so this was the perfect opportunity.
Today I was woken up by a loud commotion, coming from my aunt’s and uncle’s living quarters. “Oh no, this can’t be...” I heard Fiona scream, followed by her calling my name. I ran downstairs to see what was going on, and I saw Aunt Fiona and Uncle William, staring at a newspaper in total shock. They look at me glass-eyed, and hand me the newspaper:
Glen Cinema Disaster – At least 69 children dead
Paisley – After rolls of nitrate film caught on fire during a Hogmanay matinee special, the cinema quickly filled up with smoke. The audience, consisting mostly of children, panicked and hurriedly rushed to the exit. The doors were closed and only opened to the inside, making it hard to evacuate the building, as bodies piled up in front of the doors...
I could not read any further... There were so many children inside of the theatre; chances are Alison got out just fine. But the moment I laid eyes on the headlines, I knew something was wrong. Something inside of me died, and I was sure that the most important person in my life has died, too.


1 New Year's Eve (Scot.)

Franziska Paul