Róisín Ingle on . . . Somebody, somewhere
Somebody got Ann Lovett pregnant. Somebody in her hometown of Granard, Co Longford. Somebody from out of town. Somebody who was her own
age. Somebody who was much older. Somebody who was married. Somebody who lived alone. Somebody who had children. Somebody who drank pints of Guinness in the Granard Arms on Saturday night. Somebody who never touched a drop.
Somebody sporty. Somebody who couldn’t run the length of himself. Somebody tall. Somebody short. Somebody known intimately to somebody reading this sentence. Somebody reading this sentence. Somebody you don’t know from Adam Ant who was still churning them out past his Prince Charming best back in 1984 when Ann Lovett died.
Somebody who was a rabid Fianna Fáil supporter. Somebody who couldn’t give a toss about politics. Somebody who smoked roll ups. Somebody who never smoked again after trying a John Player blue behind the bike sheds and being sick over the stonewashed denim jacket of his best friend.
Somebody kept his mouth shut and his head down when Ann Lovett was found lying in the grotto, her baby dead beside her, the teenager half dead herself, her school uniform sodden by the rain and the afterbirth. She died later that day in hospital and Somebody kept quiet that day and all the days since and maybe that was just as well. And other people who knew everything stayed silent about Somebody and maybe they were right too. No point upsetting the apple cart. Dead after childbirth at the age of 15 Ann Lovett became Miss Notorious, Miss Alternative Ireland, Miss Lookatthestateofus. Somebody? He became the Invisible Man.
She was found on the side of a hill, a statue of Mary looking down on her, 30 years ago yesterday. Somebody kept the big secret, like all the other big secrets, oh so very secret all this time. Lowered his head when he passed her house. Stuck his nose in the air in defiance when he went to the bookies. Hung around the back door during mass. Said prayers for her. Stayed anonymous as the story spread across the land and Ann Lovett became a household name.
I was 13 when she died and when her baby died. I want to have a story to tell here about how I was shocked when I heard, how I was sad for the girl, selfishly glad it wasn’t me. But I don’t remember hearing it at the time. It was years later I learned about Ann Lovett and the Kerry Babies and all the women who had children “outside” of marriage. All the women treated like pariahs, putrid stains on the green, green grass of home, second class citizens, and all the men, all the Somebodies who were allowed to live quietly as Nobodies and who were never to blame.
Irish society was traumatised by the Ann Lovett story. Irish society blamed itself for her concealed pregnancy, for the death of the teenager and her baby. A woman, one of hundreds, wrote a letter to the Gay Byrne radio show at the time saying her 11-year-old daughter, who knew the facts of life, came to her asking how society could get a girl pregnant when she’d always been told only a man could do that. Only a man. A Somebody.
Not everyone remembers Ann Lovett. A colleague went to give a talk at a college last year and nobody in the audience of journalism students knew her name. Somebody might think that’s a good thing. Better to forget. Maybe in 30 years from now students in colleges will say “Savita who?” and Ann Lovett will be a girl nobody can quite place with an interesting surname.
Somebody didn’t become a grim celebrity. His name was not spoken in households around the country. Or maybe in some households, a tiny number. A name whispered, under the breath, under the veil of don’t-ever-tell. Somebody carried on as though nothing had happened. Somebody took to the drink. Somebody ran away. Somebody brazened it out. Somebody went to the funeral. Somebody stayed at home. Somebody blamed himself. Somebody blamed Ann Lovett. Somebody forgave himself. Somebody never thought about it again. Somebody couldn’t think of anything else.
Somebody got Ann Lovett pregnant. He’s 45 as she would have been today. He’s 60. He’s 55. He’s 70. He’s a social kind of fellow. Or he keeps to himself. He still lives in Granard. Or he’s moved away. Does it matter now? To Somebody it does. To Somebody.