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Just a Boy - Richard McCann

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2 Reviews

Genre: Biography / Author: Richard McCann / Paperback / 304 Pages / Book is published 2005-03-03 by Ebury Press

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    2 Reviews
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    • More +
      25.01.2011 20:52
      Very helpful



      The story of 4 children who lost their mum to the Yorkshire Ripper

      In October 1975 5yr old Richard McCann was woken by his 7yr old sister Sonia who had discovered their mother had not come home from the night before.
      In their pyjamas with coats thrown over them they went out and searched for an hour before going home and preparing breakfast for their younger sisters Angela and Donna.

      Wilma McCann was later identified as being the first victim of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper. Richard and Sonia missed finding the body of their mother only because it was hidden by fog.

      This is their story of growing up including how the murder of their mother affected them.

      Rarely have I read a first chapter so emotional, it's so well written you can imagine these small children wandering the streets looking for their mum and hoping to see her, perched on the seat at the bus stop waiting to see if she stepped off the bus. So grown up were they that they planned to go off to school until a policeman checking the murdered womans home address found them.
      The sense of loss and disbelief is palpable at the beginning and at various points throughout the books.

      The image of Wilma McCann most of us see is that of the hard faced prostitute. Richard makes us see the real woman, who, despite poverty and domestic violence protected her children and looked after them the best she could. I like the fact that Richard is honest about his life back then, as I think there can be a tendency to dress up people who have been murdered, etc as some kind of angelic figure which is rarely true in real life.

      All 4 children went to live with the father they had barely seen and didn't know. They walked straight into an environment of poverty with an abusive father who regularly starved and beat them, hospitalising their stepmother on regular occasions.

      This book is mostly the story of Richard and Sonia, their growing up and what happened in adulthood. This is an excellent example of this particular genre. That Richard and Sonia are lost souls is expertly portrayed, you can tell Richard feels sorry for himself, but he's not saying this just to make you feel pity for him, its not sickly 'woe is me' outpourings. Who he really feels sorry for and who he wants to protect is Sonia, you get a sense they are trying to be the mother for each other that they have lost, but it just doesnt work.
      Both of them try to heal their pain by drifting into drugs, alcohol and inappropriate relations, Richard into prison and Sonia into rehab.
      We do hear about Donna and Angela, but they are very much side characters but dont appear to have been as badly affected by the loss of their mother as Sonia and Richard.

      You live their lives with them, you'll feel their pain, be glad when their lives get back on track, feel disappointment when it seems to be going wrong and finally...........well I cant go that far!

      Very often with these books you'll see 'Triumph over Adversity' promoted, this truly is an example. It also helps us to remember that murder victims have families and especially children that need support, not lambasting in the media, or having sensationalist stories in the paper.
      This book is head and shoulders above most books of this genre.

      Richard McCann became a Samaritan, and is involved in SAMM (Support after Murder and Manslaughter), he now works as a motivational speaker.
      Sonia McCann sadly committed suicide at the age of 39 in 2007


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      • More +
        24.10.2005 15:06
        Very helpful



        Read this, and you won't be able to put it down

        Heartache. Loss. Sadness. A painful event in someone's life can cause great ripples in a lifelong pond. Just a few words and phrases to describe this moving book. This is an autobiography of a boy whose life was destroyed by the Yorkshire ripper in 1975.

        One day in early October, Richard and his older sister Sonia woke to find their mother gone, being left alone with Donna and Angela, their younger sisters. That one morning was somehow different. Their mother was always back I the early morning, and this time she wasn't back. Sonia and Richard decided to creep out of bed, being careful not to disturb their sisters went downstairs and out of the backdoor. They stayed out of the house at five in the morning for a whole hour, in a frantic search for their missing mother. On the way back they were trying to reassure each other that their mother would be fine, little did they know that round the corner, their mother had been murdered.

        Later on that afternoon, Richard and Sonia heard police sirens and huge commotion down the corner and decided to go and see what was going on. The police officer asked them some questions and eventually told them that their mother had gone to heaven. They were taken into care, and stayed there for a while. They had the chance to be replaced with a family almost immediately, but this would have meant them all being split up. Instead, they all chose to be together and live with their dad and his new partner Pauline, who had just had a child called Cheryl. But their dad doesn't have enough money and likes to spend his money down at the pub a lot, meaning that he often comes home drunken and violent at home. Pauline taking the regular beatings already at home, often made the children scared and unhappy. One time when their father comes home though, he starts on one of his children, which is the start of them all being bullied into life and unhappiness. None of them seem to be able to get out of it, he just goes back for more and more. When the kids do silly little stupid things, he goes for them. Domestic violence is a hard topic to deal with when you're young and you can't handle it as well as you can when you're an adult. You are bought up knowing that it's wrong, but not being able to do anything with what you've been taught, hating yourself when you're older for doing the stupid things that you end up doing. Eventually, Sonia leaves home having had enough of her father. When Richard gets old enough to leave school and get a job, his father finally has some respect for him though, but not for either of his sisters though, and so they eventually leave home and go to social services the way in which Sonia did.

        Richard goes from one relationship, which means a lot to him, to sleeping around, trying to get the love from a woman he never got from his mother. When he finally gets into a relationship, Richard becomes paranoid about them getting up and leaving him, which makes him aggressive towards the woman, or even starts him off by sleeping around with other women, just to try not to get hurt so much if she does end up finishing with him.

        Richard has been through so much, and tries his hardest to change his ways, by going through the army, different jobs, different lifestyles and other ways in this book. He tries his hardest each time, getting back up and trying to fight for life again. Each time he gets knocked back down, and loses almost everything he gets again. He quotes from the book 'for the first time I understood how everything is connected and how one action has a knock on effect, like the ripples on the surface of a pond when you throw a stone onto the centre of the still waters. I knew then that the ripples caused by the murder of my mother would be felt by my children and their children and so on. I wondered where I would end up.' This relates to life in general to be honest, you lose something close to you, and it suddenly effects your whole entire life completely, changing you in ways that you thought you could never change.

        This book has touched my heart in so many ways, and makes me want to know more about the whole Yorkshire ripper case. It makes me inquisitive to know more on this subject. It makes me want to contact Richard and try to help him, although I can't change everything that's happened to him in his life. This book has made me laugh and cry, and feel pain for Richard himself. I really recommend this book to everyone out there, and I only tried it because I had read a review by bluebuttons a while back. I don't recommend this to young children due to the amount of sexual and violent content, and also the sort of language used in this book. I would give this a ten out of ten though because I thought it was brilliant.


        'A graphic account how four children not only lost their mother, but their childhoods' Yorkshire evening post

        'heart-rending' women's weekly

        'A harrowing story…Their world was shattered apart' the sun

        Prices and availability

        For more information on this book, you can go to the publisher at www.randomhouse.co.uk

        RRP - £6.99
        www.tesco.com - £5.29
        www.amazon.co.uk - £5.59 but used and new from £0.01
        www.e-bay.co.uk - from £0.01 upwards

        or given that, seeing as I didn't buy my copy, pop down to your local library and borrow a copy for a while, it's a great read I assure you.

        Thanks for reading

        Copyright XXXangieXXX 2005


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      • Product Details

        One October night in 1975 Richard, aged five, was alone in the house with his three sisters. It was 3am and their mother hadn't come home yet, so he and his eldest sister set off through the foggy streets to find her. At dawn they returned home alone. Next morning, the police arrived to take the children away. Their mother had become the first victim of a serial killer soon to become known as the 'Yorkshire Ripper'. Passed from one violent home to another, the children were forgotten by all except the press. As the salacious headlines multiplied, Richard and his sisters were never able to recover from their mother's murder. Whilst Richard tried to handle the terror of his violent upbringing, his sister struggled to deal with memories of sexual abuse. Without love or support they spiralled away from help or happiness. Until one day when Richard McCann, having reached suicidal rock bottom, decided no one was going to rescue their lives but him. It was the beginning of an inspirational transformation. Now he is able to tell the story of how the forgotten children of violence suffer, and how they can heal. A heartbreaking, uplifting story of survival and hope.

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