“In a desk drawer sits a thick brown envelope stuffed with newspaper cuttings, reams of white paper listing the generations of each segment of our family tree, and brown envelopes of delicate paper each containing a single black and white photograph of family members – mostly weddings – and a leaflet with their names carefully printed in my mother’s neat handwriting.” Sandra Danby
Childhood fantasies of the ‘what would it be like if I was a child in the Second World War and the Germans invaded’ and ‘what would I be called if I’d been born in Iceland’, fuelled Sandra Danby’s lifelong fascination with identity. Encouraged by her mother’s work on the family tree – discovering one relative who survived both Dunkirk and D-Day and his son who was killed in a rock fall at a gold mine in Australia, another who was buried in ‘God’s Acre’ in 1896, amongst the countless Yorkshire farmers, fishermen and railwaymen – she became fascinated with the seemingly endless Danbys and Thorpes, the Eleanors and Marjories, the Bellas and Hildas. “What if I didn’t know who my parents were, or their parents, would I still be me? If I didn’t know I was a Danby, would I have lived a different life and grown up to be a singer or a tennis player or fashion designer?”
Fuelled by the wave of television programmes about identity – Who Do You Think You Are, and Long Lost Family – she researched family history and adoption. And as she researched, friends confided in her ‘Did I ever tell you that I’m adopted’, or ‘I had a baby and gave it away’. Inspired by these true stories, the character of Rose Haldane was born.
To read more about how Sandra Danby researched adoption for Ignoring Gravity, click here