NSW: Wednesday – The story of the green suitcase at County Hall

30 January 2019

Belinda Garnett lived around the corner from us, a likeable lady who enjoyed a laugh with her friends. When we uncovered her story, we wondered if we’d walked past her, resting on the bench on the bend in the road, smiling in the sunshine as she took a short walk.

She came to our attention some months later when we were notified of her passing, having left no Will. She had been devoted to her late husband, Lonnie Garnett, but what of her earlier origins, before she met Lonnie? Belinda was a surprise baby, arriving during the War. Little did her mother (then 17) know, that another nine babies would be coming along – both in and out of wedlock – and that she would have four of these adopted.

Belinda’s grandparents took her in, as he mother was so young. They formally adopted Belinda and she grew up as a much younger child. But her mother never forgot her, ever.

In the meantime, Belinda’s mother had had another child out of wedlock, and there was no room at the inn. She married a builder up in London, and when that marriage broke down, two boys were kept and two girls adopted out. Finally Belinda’s mother married again to a gentleman from Eastern Europe, and had four children together, and they moved down to Wiltshire, near our office. Belinda had always kept in touch with her mother. There is a lovely card ‘to my darling daughter’, which makes us wonder how Barbara’s mother coped with the having three other children adopted, with whom she had no contact. Belinda too married a man from Eastern Europe and they were very happy together.

A photograph of Belinda outside her home story
A photograph of Belinda outside her home

We were able to locate Belinda’s brothers and sisters, scattered throughout the world as they were. Appropriately one of them was the very first visitor in our brand new office, back in 2016. One day we had a phone call from County Hall that there was a big green suitcase. Inside the suitcase were hundreds of photographs, including the one from Belinda’s mother (‘to my darling daughter’) and some wonderful snaps of the half-siblings playing rough-and-tumble with the family dog. There were also some formal church photographs, perhaps taken in Poland showing something of the life Belinda’s husband had before he came here.

She and her husband are commemorated together on a gravestone, now, and although we never met, we often think of the little lady with her red handbag squinting at the sun, sitting on the bench near our office.

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