The teddybear which was the main source of comfort for a Connemara woman who was raped over a number of years by her father has become the star of her first children’s book.
Throughout her lonely desperate years of abuse Camus born author Barbara Naughton clung to her teddy Feefeen Mac Rageen. Today, she still brings him everywhere with her. He has his own passport which she lovingly created for him and he even is on Facebook.
And when she decided to write a book for young readers he became her source of inspiration.
The Adventures of Feefeen and Friends - on sale from Dubray Books at €6.99 - is aimed at five-to-eight year-old readers and adults with imagination, she says.
She decided to write the book after being encouraged by friends to bring her “orangey bear with the down-turned lip” to life.
“I was talking to friends in Dublin one day and was doing the voice of my teddy. They told me to write it down on a page and create a teddybear’s world,” says the 34-year-old who divides her time between Dublin and the United States.
“Then I thought of several storylines - a haunted house, a day in the countryside, a circus. I went home and created an environment [for inspiration]. I put on tranquil pan pipes and my characters became alive. ‘Holy Smokes’ I said to myself. Where is this story going? Events began to unfold and Feefeen came to life.
“He meets other teddies on his adventures. A guy from Wexford sent me a picture of his teddybear. I used the image in my book. He had an angry, quirky face - an authoritative face - and he became a teacher in my book called Mr Biggles.”
It took her six months to write the book and another six to find an editor. Now that it is in the shops she is thinking of writing another children’s book.
“I said to myself recently I’ve no other stories for Feefeen. Then I had an idea. I looked at my keyboard and in my imagination it turned into a car which would take Feefeen and friends to see Santa (not in the North Pole ) in the sun! The image on the cover will be Feefeen dragging Santa’s leg from the chimney.”
Her dog [a Maltese she bought in Achill four months ago called Neeneen] will be a central character in her new book.
The moral of The Adventures of Feefeen and Friends is that people should not hurt animals while the message in her next book will be that we should “listen to our dreams”, she says.
She collects teddybears, of all shapes and sizes and colours. She has 2,500 and always buys one in each new country she visits. One caught her eye because he looked “sad and lonely”in a SuperValu store recently and she felt compelled to offer him a loving home.
She previously worked as a complementary therapist but is now concentrating on writing. She has carved out a career for herself in acting in the past two years - she appeared with fashion icon Twiggy in a BBC series, did some theatre work in California as well as singing on stage.
Barbara is working on another book - adult fiction about a dysfunctional family - at the minute. She is halfway through writing it and it will be published in 2013.
Her previous book titled Without Hope which was published in 2010 gives a heartbreaking account of the six years of abuse perpetrated by her father Patrick Naughton. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2002 and was released in February of this year.
It emerged in court that the rapes, often accompanied by violence and sexual and psychological abuse, had occurred repeatedly over a period of six years from 1987 - when Barbara was only eight years old to 1993, and once again in June 1997. She was first raped in the family home on a Sunday morning when the rest of the family was at Mass.
The length of her father’s sentence came as a major relief to her at the time. Not only did it vindicate her actions in bringing him to court it also removed for a long time the threat he made that he would come after her again.
Barbara, the second eldest of a family of five, says the court case did not give her closure rather “reopened old wounds and revived the past”.
Counselling did not work for her, she says because it did not bring out what was inside her - “I felt ugly, angry and hurt”. However, she received spiritual counselling in the United States which “brought her into the real world”.
She says there is an urgent need for a change in the law in relation to the survivors of abuse. She wants to see a recovery programme, a type of long term support structure set in place for them.
“I will be campaigning for a change in the law. It’s about time somebody got the Irish law amended and updated in relation to crime regarding abuse. I want the country to take better care of the survivors of traumatic events. People walk out [from court] afterwards and while they may look fine on the outside they may be experiencing an emotional rollercoaster. They are devastated. Somebody should be appointed to help them get their lives back, their lives have been invaded. They are abandoned as it is. You leave the courts and are left to pick up the pieces, there is no counselling or any form of therapy provided. People are paying for private counselling. There needs to be a structure set in place to nurture the person, to bring them out of this tunnel into the light.”
She says she has “no feelings whatsoever” towards her father. “But I wouldn’t mind on his deathbed saying to him: ‘Shame on you for the life you led. You ought to be ashamed of yourself and apologise to the country for what you did. You only preyed on vulnerable people. An apology to me would mean nothing.
“If I saw him on fire in the front garden I wouldn’t rush in to quench the flames.....