Dawn on The Iron Mountain.

File is an anagram of life. I was previously informed that my files had been lost by The Iron Mountain.


They arrived a few days ago.  The first record is July 1967. I was born in May 1967. The last record is 1985. There are four prepared files of photocopied documents: A B C D


And it begins with this.  Yes it’s me. Notice the hair.   Eat your heart out Elvis.


There is too much to share. I haven’t processed it all myself yet. Here is a small selection: Eleven reports ranging from 1967 to 1978. The “Postlethwaites” were my early short term foster parents. The “Greenwoods” were my long term foster parents.

Within a year of the last entry I was placed into childrens homes.  it’s ironic that I only knew myself as Norman Greenwood yet the files refer to me as Norman Sissay.  I’ll say no more. The files speak for themselves.




21 thoughts on “Dawn on The Iron Mountain.

  1. What a wonderful profile of you as a little boy, some most perceptive and compassionate observations. Sure the looming personal difficulties and benign ignorance about race are already apparent but the overall impression is of a life no more or less positive than many other lives at the time. Love your little self!

  2. I am really glad for you lemn, getting your files after all this time.I hope they bring you some satisfaction from knowing….I have a feeling mine will stay lost. I dread to read what they wrote about me. I think it will go something like ” This kid is a serial killer in the making” .I rang the police a few weeks ago , They said they couldn’t deal with my complaint as the serious crime squad was dealing with it and that they would be in touch. I have an appointment with the head of child welfare at wigan town hall on 6/8/15. I am going to ask him for my file and im going to ask him how the management didn’t know that staff ran woodend with intimidation and beatings. It was common knowledge among the social workers and the staff at normal children’s homes. It was used as a threat to make kids behave. John Harding used it quite often to me.

  3. Ahh Lemn reading those reports
    You’re surrounded by people
    But deeply alone
    I do hope you achieve Peace
    All the best Kid

  4. The diary that you never wrote! So many dots. But substantive information. I am glad to know your mother wanted you back. Only God knows why your life took this course. Do you remember any of the social worker’s visits? Were the visits announced? They are well prepared and documented. They give appropriate clues to describe how you were cared for. How do you feel now? So many questions I wish I could ask? Do you want your real mum to read it? You are destined for greater blessings, thank you for sharing. A lot can be learned from this docs.

  5. It seemed like the reports were of a much older boy, but you were only eleven – still a young boy. I got a sense of a bland sweeping over of life events and feelings not being explored. The extracts read as if there is already a prescribed way of seeing that influences the focus of the report. It must be strange to see this reported narrative of your life – you and your life perceived by others in limited and stilted snapshots. I wish you much peace and creativity in dealing with what you have to deal with. 🙂

  6. There are times when words don’t quite adequately do the job. If I could I’d give you a hug. Instead feel the positive vibes and the comfort from a hug.

  7. The young Lemn perceived by others – how did this young Lemn himself feel?
    Many thanks for sharing this account of your early years.

  8. That baby picture is priceless! So adorable and cute by the way, it is not unique for Eritrean/Ethiopian babies hair to start so smooth and silky, when we grow up it just changes. You still have nice hair with character. Rock that Afro Nebse 🙂 Reading the document is very hard; I keep asking myself why they kept you from your mother, prejudice that is what it is. Life is just complicated. I am gland your mother is alive to see your baby picture. God bless you and stay the same

  9. You had a right old deck of cards, straight from the off. Thing is, reading this, Lemn Sissay, you were a little Man. Nice one.

  10. Lemm – My heart feels raw just looking at these. Our histories have many parallels, and I’m grateful you give voice and words to so much I have felt along my path. I’m holding my breath as I read all of this. I feel vulnerable on your behalf…that eager feeling of wanting to know more about my history, but yet also afraid of what I might find. Knowing I may end up will still more unanswerable questions. You are a hero and an inspiration to me, and I know to many others. I hope what you find brings you more peace and more pieces of your (hi)story. You are in my thoughts.

  11. “This child extracts the greatest possible pleasure out of everything he does” And so the man too! You reveal how we can all own our story, that ultimately it is ourselves who must be the narrator of our journies through life, challenged to each make the world anew every day, every moment in fact. Striving after form, clarity over obscurity, giving both the dark and the light their true significance.

  12. Lemn – It feels very weird reading such personal information and amazing that you are sharing it. So many narratives and poems in there, my god! ‘Ardent interest in Ethiopia’, ‘proficient reading’ – it was all there wasn’t it. Extraordinary beginnings and life journey. Blessings to you.

  13. I was absolutely immersed in reading your history. I would love to see it as a book with your own thoughts and memories of your life mirroring each page. It sounds like your foster family gave you a lot of affection. I was fascinated by the one social worker who obviously took umbrage about the degree/social worker qualification! Thank you so much for sharing

  14. I just looked on Wikipedia as I was wondering what happened next as you have me fascinated. The reports show what sounds like a reasonably happy home and then you are suddenly shoved into a children’s home! What a shock that must have been. It’s a testament to your character that you have climbed your tree x

  15. Me again! Just watched your Ted talk to the Houses of Parliament. What a different picture it paints to the reports! You are an amazing man.

  16. Thanks for working so hard to get these files sent to you and sharing their flavour and flow with us. The history of your life that they reveal is also the history of so many of us who have been subject to and been paid to create such accounts of others’ lives. Travel safely through reading ‘your files’ and I, for one, look forward to what you fashion for us all from them.

  17. Lemn, I never cease to find myself in you. May peace fill you like stolen biscuits, enjoyed at sleepy hours, with a smack of lips and rubbed tummy…

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