Author Gordon Lewis shared the story of his phenomenal mother Cathleen and his first nine years living at Regina Coeli in his 2015 memoir, Secret Child, which is now being turned into an emotive short film.
The London-based author said he could not have published the memoir while his mother was alive, as it was too painful for her to recall those memories.
Lewis and his mother were residents at the The Regina Coeli hostel, founded by Frank Duff in 1930 in a former military barracks. The hostel was somewhere homeless women, including women who found themselves pregnant and unmarried, could live and keep their babies in exchange for a weekly contribution.
Lewis' book tells the story of his mother Cathleen's romance with a "Clark Gable lookalike" named Bill Lewis, whom she met when she was 29 and he was 45.
Cathleen, a Catholic, was working as a hotel chambermaid in Dublin when she met the Protestant man who swept her off her feet. Due to their opposing religious backgrounds, the pair dated in secret for four years until Bill moved to London.
As their relationship dwindled and Bill stopped sending letters, Cathleen became pregnant after a brief affair with another man whom she later found out was secretly married with a family of his own.
Determined to keep her baby, Cathleen entered the Regina Coeli hostel.
Lewis decided to tell his mother's tale all these years later.
“As you get older you start thinking about your parents in a different way because you often take them for granted in general terms and I thought my mother had an interesting story, even though we never spoke about her story,” he told the Irish Independent.
Teaser 2 from Secret Child. Sister Peggy Scene. #secretChild #truestory #teaser #trailer #irish #film #filmmaking #dublin #ireland #child #actor #indiefilm #movie #uk #british pic.twitter.com/xpsrRvvobl— Secret Child: The Bridge (@secretchildfilm) May 2, 2018
“We never talked about the Dublin past and the reason she didn’t talk about it was all to do with how she had lived all that time in Regina Coeli in silence – she lived a double life. She didn’t tell her family she had a child. She didn’t tell anybody she had a child. On the surface she was a woman, now older, and simply not married. The reality was she had a child but she didn’t convey this to anybody. I wanted to tell her story.”
"Secret Child: The Bridge" directed by #YewWengHo is an Award #Winner in our competition, congratulations! - Are you an Award Winner? Send us your graphics with the #Oniros Laurels! #DreamBigAlways pic.twitter.com/42KagNiPJJ— Oniros Film Awards (@OnirosFilmAward) May 14, 2018
Cathleen's mother knew nothing of her grandson. She believed that Cathleen was still single and childless, working in Dublin and renting a room in the city.
Lewis has produced a short film titled "Secret Child: The Bridge" based on the first book, which is screening at film festivals across Ireland, the UK, and Europe in the hope of being developed into a full length feature, or TV series. It has already won a series of awards.
Lewis is also searching for anyone who might remember him or his mother from . the hostel which was located on Morning Star Avenue on Dublin’s Northside, and where they lived until 1962.
“My mother was known as Cathleen and ‘Lady’. I was known as Francis but I didn’t like my name and changed it to Gordon,” he said. “I would love to hear from anyone, any woman or child, who lived there and might remember us.”
To learn more about the book, visit secretchild.com
Fiona Glascott shares what is like playing Cathleen, her experience on set and her thoughts on the film Secret Child. Watch the exclusive interview now and share and RT. https://t.co/mm1PsDYnjr— Secret Child: The Bridge (@secretchildfilm) May 7, 2018