Shocking childhood captured in book

The cover of Thats Just How It Was by James Lawlor
The cover of Thats Just How It Was by James Lawlor

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JAMES Lawlor, from Anchorage Park, Hilsea, tells of his poverty-stricken youth in the autobiography That’s Just How It Was; The Real Story Of A Real Ragamuffin.

It was recently revealed to James that instead of being born and bred in Portsmouth, he was in fact born in Ireland and given up by his mother. By 14 he was living on the streets of Portsmouth.

James said he wrote the book to ensure his two sons knew their family history.

Until then they knew nothing of his terrible childhood and he didn’t want to discuss it with them.

Of his home life James, now 72, said: ‘I noticed how the children that I thought were my siblings were treated differently to me.

‘They went to a Catholic school and had their uniforms paid for by their grandparents, whereas I went to an ordinary school and had to sleep in the basement on an old sofa.

‘The rest of the family would all eat together but I would be told to sit with my back to everyone and face the wall.’

That’s Just How It Was tells the story of a man who loves Portsmouth and its history but later in life finds out his roots originate much further away.

James said: ‘I never imagined it would do so well – it’s sold more than 100 copies.

‘I would have been pleased if it sold a dozen.’

In recent years James found his 95 and 97-year-old aunt and uncle who live in Kent.

They told him more about his childhood and supported him in writing his book.

They have kept in contact and speak every Sunday.

James said: ‘I contacted Somerset House to ask for my baptism certificate to be told they had no record of me.

‘Then when I later found out from my aunt that I was actually born in Ireland, I contacted the church there.’

James has come a long way from living on the streets, stealing milk from doorsteps and picking tomatoes from people’s allotments in order to survive.

He has had two careers. He spent more than 20 years as a paramedic and then worked on the railways until retirement.

James raised a family of his own and is a now proud grandfather.

That’s Just how It Was; The Real Story Of A Real Ragamuffin is published by Tricorn Books. Pick up a copy from Waterstones.