Forgotten Citizens: an interview with Jo Cochrane

Forgotten Citizens conference
Published on 8 Sep 2008

Why is it important people tell their stories?

Jo Cochrane

I think, it's absolutely crucial that people with learning disabilities tell their stories because I think the only way I can protect my son against the possibility of abuse and neglect and being forgotten is by remembering what we did in the past.

My big fear is that we are moving away from a situation where people remember what the past was like and what we did. And we're moving towards a greater acceptance of segregation as a possible notion and language about keeping people safe, whereas it's actually people don't want to be safe, they want to have a good life.

In the past, keeping people safe has led to quite horrible things happening. We need to make sure that we keep people's stories and we write them down and we make the younger generation aware of them, because we think that everybody understands what places remind us of - places like Lennox Castle - but they don't.

I stand beside any picture of Lennox Town and half the parents who are there don't know what Lennox Castle was or what it meant. When I drive into it, my heart goes cold because I remember what it was like and I imagine 40 years ago my son being dragged out of my arms and sent there. So, I think, it's really important that we collect people's stories, and we use people's stories, and we listen.

What can we learn?

Jo Cochrane

I hope people learn about stupid things done in the past with the best of intentions. I think, that David and Mabel made it quite plain that taking a child away from a mother makes no sense whatsoever. They knew it - and they had learning disabilities - and they knew it made no sense. We need to make sure that we don't ever get to a situation where we're doing inhumane things to people with no reason.


Could I ask you just one more question about today?

Jo Cochrane



From the overall conference today as an individual, a person, what are you going to take away from it?

Jo Cochrane

It's going to reenergize me. I think, it's very easy for me to forget that it's important to keep collecting stories and to use these stories. I think, it's important for me as somebody who trains people - and I do use the history all the time - but to remember the importance of the history.

I think, when we're training support workers and care workers, we have to remind them of what's gone on in the past, because I think they don't know. The danger of them slipping into the same sort of patterns of abuse is possible. So, that's what I'm going to do.