"All of my childhood, my mother never once allowed me to forget that I was 'special.' She herself had been told this fact by a peg-selling gypsy in Portlaw, Ireland for the mere price of sixpence before I was even born. Every night before settling me down to sleep, mum would say, 'Billy, never forget that.......'
'I know, I know' I would reply, 'I'm special. I know. I'm special.'
Being told daily that I was special, it was only natural that I felt special in everything I did. At the age of 11 years I was run over by a wagon and after defying the medical prognosis that I'd die and then never walk again, when I did, my mother knew why. It was because I was special. Indeed, everything I ever successfully achieved before my mother died, she put down to this 'specialness.' Although Catholic through and through, my mother believed that a peg-selling gypsy had conferred my specialness on me in her womb and it had nothing to do with medical intervention, God, guardian angels, sheer belief or even the sixpence paid to receive this revelation.
I had advanced into my twenties before it suddenly dawned on me that I was special...... but then......so was everyone else!
I strongly suspected that I wasn't the first man to come out of the Emerald Isle who was special after meeting loads of other Irish blokes in the pub who also told me that they were special too. Then I cast my mind back to the funeral of every Irish man I'd ever attended and had to concede a common feature found in each occasion. As the coffin was lowered into the ground, the priest conducting the funeral would always describe the deceased as having being 'a scholar, a good father and husband, a defender of orphans and widows worldwide, a friend to all in need, a good Catholic and a true gentleman!' At the time, I frequently regretted never having known this great man better who had indeed been born, lived and died 'special.'
Ever since that day of realisation, I accepted that not only are Irish Catholic men 'special', but so are womenfolk worldwide, English protestants, universal agnostics and every other earthly faith and creed. And whilst I cannot believe for one moment that all the mothers of these 'special' people had been visited by the same peg-selling gypsy who'd conferred this honour on me, I'm willing to bet that their own mothers had a very important part to play in their feelings of 'specialness' throughout their childhood development.
During my twenty five years working as a Probation Officer in West Yorkshire, I came across so many sorry souls who'd never once felt special during their entire life. The people who had the greatest impact on me however, was a group of lifers in a women's prison whom I taught Relaxation Training to for the best part of one year. Almost all had killed someone, often partners or children, following a lifetime's experience of deprivation, depravity and all manner of abuse. In every single case I ever worked with where the female prisoner had gone on to murder another, the woman concerned had never heard her parents say the words, 'I love you.' On the occasions that their father or some other man in their lives had said these words to her, they had never felt loved, knowing what they really meant was, 'I want you.' Consequently, these women, most of whom had given birth to children of their own who were now either dead or in Care, found themselves unable to say the words, 'I love you.'
This prison group ended two weeks before Christmas and provided me with the best Christmas present I was ever given when all the dozen women held hands in a circle and told the woman on each side of them, 'I love you.' As they said these words, sensing that they were truly expressed, I inwardly wept with the knowledge that however much longer they might serve in prison feeling unloved, for one day in their lives they had felt able to express and receive love in return. Murderers they may have become, but inadequate children at heart they always remained.
Since I discovered that all people are truly special, I have endeavoured to tell everyone I can of their own particular brand of specialness; encouraging them to accept this honour that greatly affects their life. And I haven't charged them sixpence!" William Forde: August 2nd, 2015.