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The Fallen: 'Heartbreaking' story of Scotland's forced adoption scandal

Sharon Frew

3 days ago

Thousands of women, most of them young and unmarried, were forced to give up their babies for adoption until the late 1970s.

The Fallen: Stage show focuses on the stories from the girls who were cruelly labelled ‘The Fallen Girls’.

For decades, they were cruelly labelled fallen women – now the real-life stories of unmarried mothers affected by forced adoption practices are to be retold on the stage.

A musical, which premieres in Glasgow this evening, was created in the months following the formal apology from the Scottish Government for the historic wrong.

The Fallen, a production by Theatre Alliance, aims to portray the heartbreak endured by both mothers and fathers. 

Artistic director Marlisa Ross said: “We felt a real responsibility to shed light on the truth of what happened. This is not historic for many people.

The Fallen: Stage show focuses on the stories from the girls who were cruelly labelled ‘The Fallen Girls’.

“Through our research, it became clear this remains a living trauma for not just mothers and their children but also fathers and other family members. “ 

To prepare for their role, the cast met with some of the Scottish women whose lives were changed forever by forced adoption practices. 

Chloe Griffin, 32, plays Young Mary, a pregnant 22-year-old in a mother and baby home.

Mary wants to keep her baby, but her pleas go ignored by social work. Chloe admits to feeling nervous ahead of opening night as she feels a responsibility to get the character right. 

“It was a privilege to meet the women who shared their experiences,” Chloe told STV News.

“Their voice is the strongest we can listen to. Before the meeting, I had no idea of the magnitude of this scandal and left that day feeling angry and sad.

“They are incredible women and I think we could all learn from something from them in terms of their resilience.”

Last year, former first minister Nicola Sturgeon issued a formal apology to those affected by forced adoption from the 1950 to the 1970s.

The group that campaigned for this recognition know this weekend’s performances will be poignant.

Many members from across the UK will be in the audience at the Websters theatre in Glasgow with their families. 

Jeannot Farmer, from Movement for Adoption Apology Scotland, said: “It will be immensely powerful hearing words and phrases that were applied to us. There will be a lot of emotion on the night.

“There is so much language that is used about us, that ‘we gave our children up’ and that ‘we relinquished our children’. I think this play will get to the core of what really happened. 

“The cast are so close to the ages we were at that time. They have a real commitment to getting the truth out there. It has felt really quite healing to know there are young people who are wanting to listen and who have responded in this way with such empathy.” 

During the closing section of the play, the first names of babies who were taken will be read out. 

“We recognise one of the main things that happens through the adoption process is that the loss of the identity that the mother chose for their baby, and we wanted to acknowledge those identities,” Marlisa said.

“It is quite a challenging moment to perform, and I have always said to the cast saying those names is the most important part of this whole piece. I hope this will bring home the truth.” 

Three shows are sold out, but the theatre company said it has been overwhelmed by the level of interest the play has received.

It hopes further shows can be arranged in the coming months and is considering ways to share it with a wider audience. 

Marlisa said: “We had people getting in touch from Australia and Canada, telling us they would love to see it. I see this very much as the beginning of a journey for this piece.”  

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