The Irish Mail on Sunday
My own parents were brother and sister too
A MAN has broken a 40-year silence about how his mother and father were in fact sister and brother, in a second case of incest to be revealed by the Irish Mail on Sunday.
Kevin McKenna, from Balbriggan, north Dublin said his mother Catherine told him before she died in 2008 that she had a ‘loving’ relationship with her older brother, Joseph, a year before he was born.
Joseph died four months before Kevin’s birth.
Mr McKenna, 67, also believes that, as a child, he was poisoned by his mother with milk from an infected cow in a desperate attempt to ‘hide her secret’, and that this may have led him to develop TB.
His revelations follow this newspaper’s exclusive interview last year with Dolores Keogh, from Sixmilebridge in Co. Clare, whose mother and father were sister and brother.
‘My mother told me
before she died’
Ms Keogh, 59, who appeared on the Late Late Show last weekend, said she had received more than 40 calls from people in similar situations over the past seven months.
Speaking for the first time today, Mr McKenna, who spent 10 years of his childhood being treated in Cappagh Hospital, said he felt relieved to finally tell the truth.
‘I’ve never told anyone,’ he said. ‘My mother told me before she died that she was in love with her brother, Joseph, and I was born after that. He was 27 and she was 20. I don’t know anything about my father. I never saw him or even saw photos of him. ’
Kevin was reared by his mother, Catherine, in the family home. She witnessed three deaths before her first child was born. Joseph died from TB in December 1946, before their son Kevin Joseph was born.
Joseph and Catherine’s mother, Bridget, died on February 13, 1947. Bridget’s husband, Joseph Sr, died of a heart attack two days later.
‘My mother said she named me after her brother Joe. She didn’t say much except she was in love with him.’
At six, Kevin contracted TB and later had more than 30 operations before finally having his leg ampu- tated. During that time, his mother married a local man, Michael Cannon, and went on to have nine other children. Kevin said his stepfather was often violent towards him. ‘I thought he was my father,’ he said. ‘Then a hospital social worker asked me how I got on with my “stepfather”. I didn’t know what that meant and she said, “You do know he’s not your real father?” But I never asked my mother.
‘Michael was never nice to me, he drank a lot and he used to grab me and shout at me. When I was sleeping he would urinate in a bottle and throw it over me in the bed.’
When Kevin was discharged from hospital at 16, he remained in the family home in Balbriggan until his stepfather sent him to live in London with his mother’s brother, Donald.
He recalled: ‘Donald came home from London to fetch me. He took me in to live with his family. They [Kevin’s mother and stepfather] just wanted me out of the way.
‘I started working in the pubs over there. I wrote home the odd time but no one ever wrote back.’
In 1972, a friend came to London to work and she told Kevin the truth that his father was Catherine’s brother. ‘I remember being really shocked, I didn’t think things like that happened,’ said Kevin. ‘She told me about this lad Joe, but I’d never heard of my mother having a brother called Joe.
‘I asked Donald as soon as I met him again. He didn’t tell me anything, he just confirmed it. But he said that they loved each other.’
Despite the shock of the news, Kevin didn’t confront his mother until 1995, when he packed up his life in London and moved home.
He said: ‘She already knew Donald had told me but she insisted she was raped. But why would
‘I didn’t think things like
Donald lie to me? He was a nice guy. It wasn’t until she was dying in 2008 that she came here and told me the truth. She went to Beaumont soon after that and died there, but I didn’t go and see her. I didn’t go to her funeral either.’
Kevin visited his mother’s grave for the first time last week. It was then that he discovered that his father is buried in the same plot as his mother and his stepfather.
The headstone states that Joseph died on April 3, 1943, but his death certificate, which was seen by the MoS, says Joseph McKenna died in December 1946.
‘Someone made an error [on the gravestone] but I’m going to have it corrected,’ said Kevin. ‘My life is good now. I keep myself busy and I’ve been writing for the past 10 years. I’m relieved to be able to say it out loud now, it’s therapeutic.’