Who Do Think You Are?

Pop leg­end lulu on fi­nally find­ing out why her mum was given away as a baby

TV Times - - News - Caren Clark


My fel­low Scot, Marie Mcdon­ald Mclaugh­lin Lawrie, bet­ter known as Bri­tish pop leg­end Lulu, was al­ways dis­cour­aged from ask­ing her mum about her past. Now she fi­nally finds out why...

I was cry­ing and laugh­ing at the same time

With her im­pres­sive ca­reer, tak­ing in every­thing from the Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test and singing a Bond theme to star­ring in hit movies and Strictly Come Danc­ing, we’re de­lighted to re­veal that, af­ter more than 50 years in the lime­light, pop leg­end Lulu still feels the same heady en­thu­si­asm for show­busi­ness.

‘When I go on stage, I just love it,’ en­thuses Lulu, 68. ‘I’m blessed to be able to do it and to still en­joy it. It’s un­be­liev­able.’

How­ever, de­spite her joy about her pro­fes­sional suc­cess, a fam­ily

mys­tery has gnawed away at her since child­hood and, in this week’s Who Do You Think You Are?, she fi­nally gets the chance to solve it.

Lulu, who was born as Marie Mcdon­ald Mclaugh­lin Lawrie in Glas­gow in 1948, wanted to dis­cover more about how her mother, El­iz­a­beth, was raised by the lov­ing Mcdon­ald clan af­ter her birth fam­ily, the Kennedy-cairns, gave her away as a baby.

‘My mother’s story is a big se­cret,’ says Lulu. ‘Although it wasn’t talked about, we knew not to ask too many ques­tions or to push it. I wanted to find out why she was given away. There was a lot to be an­swered. I didn’t know what I was go­ing find, but I had no high­fa­lutin ideas. I wasn’t wait­ing to find out I was a princess!’

When Lulu trav­elled back to Glas­gow for the show, she learned more about El­iz­a­beth’s Catholic fa­ther, Hugh Cairns, and Protes­tant mother, He­len Kennedy.

Dur­ing the 1920s, there were fre­quent clashes be­tween the two faiths in the city and the cou­ple’s fam­i­lies tried to sep­a­rate them, even send­ing Hugh to Amer­ica, only for him to sneak back.

‘I imag­ine that the fam­i­lies ab­so­lutely re­fused to al­low them to get mar­ried, but they couldn’t keep them apart,’ says Lulu.

The cou­ple had two il­le­git­i­mate chil­dren to­gether be­fore mar­ry­ing in a non-re­li­gious cer­e­mony in 1925, and then had El­iz­a­beth in 1927. How­ever, the new­ly­weds faced fur­ther dif­fi­cul­ties be­cause Hugh was fre­quently un­em­ployed.

‘I found a ref­er­ence that he was given af­ter he left a job say­ing, “Hugh Cairns has proved him­self to be a good work­man and is a good time­keeper”. That was a lie, so it was very nice of them!’ laughs Lulu. It turns out that Hugh was fre­quently in and out of prison from the age of 16 for a va­ri­ety of crimes, in­clud­ing theft, breach­ing the peace and as­sault.

As Lulu delves deeper, it be­comes clear that Hugh was part of a Catholic gang and the vi­o­lence he was in­volved in left him with a deeply scarred face.

‘Hav­ing more in­for­ma­tion about my grand­par­ents’ lives makes me see how aw­ful their strug­gle was,’ says Lulu. ‘He­len mar­ried a wrong ’un. He was in this gang and he made choices that weren’t smart.’

When El­iz­a­beth, who was the mid­dle child of seven, left her birth fam­ily at around six months old, Hugh was in prison, while He­len had tem­po­rar­ily dis­ap­peared. Lulu was shocked to read a record from when she left her fam­ily to be briefly fos­tered be­fore join­ing the Mc­don­alds.

‘The head­ing on the doc­u­ment said,

“How dis­posed of ” and that re­ally pained me,’ says Lulu, who was de­lighted to find other records from in­spec­tors who com­mented on the happy home El­iz­a­beth even­tu­ally had.

‘I was cry­ing and laugh­ing at the same time when I read those words,’ she says. ‘Mum was well loved and cared for and felt se­cure.’

There was also hap­pi­ness and pride in store for Lulu when she looked into the life of her great-grand­mother, He­len’s mother, also named He­len. The de­vout Protes­tant was a lead­ing mem­ber of a Ladies’ Orange

Lodge and would of­ten head Protes­tant pa­rades, even­tu­ally be­com­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s first Wor­thy Grand Mis­tress.

‘I saw a photo of her and she re­ally looked like me, with a fat wee face! I was de­lighted that she was a woman who was so strong.

I’d like to have known her. She came from noth­ing, that’s what’s so amaz­ing,’ says Lulu, who was also pleased to dis­cover that de­spite their dif­fer­ences, He­len Jr and her mother were even­tu­ally buried in the same grave.

‘That does sug­gest that, even with all the trou­bles and re­li­gious fight­ing that went on, there was a bond that couldn’t be bro­ken.’

ge­neal­ogy / 8.00pm / BBC1 As the series re­turns af­ter a short break, singer Lulu finds plenty to shout about as she looks into the emo­tional story of why her mother El­iz­a­beth Kennedy­cairns was given away as a baby and raised by the car­ing Mc­don­alds. Lulu un­cov­ers the chal­leng­ing tale of the tur­bu­lent and of­ten de­struc­tive ro­mance be­tween El­iz­a­beth’s birth par­ents Hugh and He­len, whose tu­mul­tuous re­la­tion­ship took place against the back­drop of con­flict be­tween Catholics and Protes­tants in Glas­gow dur­ing the 1920s. But Lulu is far more im­pressed to learn about He­len’s forth­right mother, He­len Sr, a lead­ing light in the lo­cal Protes­tant com­mu­nity at the time.

Hang on to your hat: Lulu goes on a jour­ney full of ups and downs Se­cret his­tory: Lulu with her mum El­iz­a­beth in the 1980s

Strictly Lulu: The star with danc­ing pro Bren­dan Cole El­iz­a­beth with Lulu and her brother Billy (left) and hus­band Ed­ward

Lulu digs into her Scot­tish past

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