Troubador The Echo of a Footfall

Released: 28/11/2019

ISBN: 9781838591724

eISBN: 9781838597498

Format: Paperback/eBook

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The Echo of a Footfall


In 1926, having cared for her sick mother on her own for some years, 16 year old Mary gives birth to a baby boy in the Workhouse. Abandoned by her mother, unsupported by the child’s father, and behaving in ways the Workhouse finds difficult to manage, her baby is taken from her and she is sent to the local mental hospital (previously the lunatic asylum). Here, with the help of other inmates, and encouraged by an ambitious young woman seeking her vocation as a nurse, she begins a long process of discovery and development, learning to read and write, and then to cook and cater for the staff and patients in the institution that becomes her home.

Set against a backdrop of changes in attitude to, and treatments for, mental illness, and reflecting developments in post war societal structures, particularly those involving immigration from the Empire, Mary’s story spans over 50 years, as, discharged from the hospital, she continues to strive to find her identity, to understand where she belongs, and ultimately to find her baby. While the influence of the Great War on the lives of those who survived it echoes over the lives of the generations that follow, Mary yearns for a caring and tolerant community to support the family she finally creates for herself.

By chance, I read The Echo of a Footfall on the back of Pat Barker's Regeneration which covers the work of WHR Rivers' treatment of soldiers in mental wards, mainly those suffering from shell shock, during the First World War. Pat Scampion's book follows on chronologically. And although it focusses on female patients, it details how treatment and care of patients has evolved until quite recently. The story focuses on a group of women, at first almost haplessly confined to a workhouse, and how they grew in strength, confidence and independence with reforms and changes to the system. But what stood out most for me was the love and support they shared with each another. An important story, well written and beautifully told.

by Charles Monkhouse

Patricia Scampion

Patricia Scampion is a retired paediatrician who worked in or visited a number of the old residential hospitals for people with a mental illness or with learning or physical disabilities in the early years of her training. She has two daughters and granddaughters, and lives with her husband in Derbyshire.

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