My sister Bridie used to be kneel on the bed so she could see herself in the dressing-table mirror as she backcombed her hair and got herself ready to go out. The bedroom was just big enough to fit a small wardrobe, the dressing table and the double bed, in which Mary, Bridie and Kathleen slept top to toe. Bridie was a sixties chick, with a pink shift dress and beehive hair-do. In the photos of the time, she looks like a model. Even though she was grown up and working at the Plessey electronics factory, she still had to ask Dad if she could go out in the evening.

'Where are you going?'

'Don't know,' Bridie would tell him, with a defiant shrug. But she did know. She was going out dancing to the Palais in Bathgate.

'What time will you be back in?'

'Don't know.'

'Well, I'll tell you what time you'll be back,' says my dad.

'You'll be back at ten o'clock!'

Sometimes he wouldn't allow her out at all. It was tame by today's standards, but the Palais had a reputation for fights and my dad was protective. Once, when he thought Bridie was safe upstairs, she put a mirror up on the grill of the cooker to check her make-up and, with a quick whoosh from the squeezy bottle of Bel Air, she hoisted up her mini-skirt and climbed out the kitchen window!

I can still feel the tingle of terror and anticipation when my dad discovered that she'd gone out, and the rest of us kids tried to cover for her. She got a row when she came in! One day, she didn't dare to come back but spent the night at a pal's. When my dad found her, she told him she wasn't coming home because she wanted to be able to go out dancing. Not many people were brave enough to stand up to my dad, because he could make a bit of noise, but he told her, fair enough, you can go out. He wasn't an ogre or a bully and he was only strict because he loved his children and wanted to do the right thing.

One by one, my older siblings began to spread their wings and leave home. A year after I was born, Mary was married and moved to a flat of her own. She raised a family of five children as well as teaching at our local primary school, Our Lady of Lourdes. My oldest brother Joe, who is the most academic of the Boyle children, went to university, married and moved away. He was training to be a teacher too, but was put off when some of the pupils at the school where he was doing teaching practice trundled a piano down a corridor and pushed it into the swimming pool. That's when he decided teaching wasn't for him.

As the youngest child, I watched with curiosity as the older ones got themselves dressed up ready for exciting adventures in the world outside. It was a mystery to me what they were doing, because my experiences of the world outside our house weren't very pleasant at all.
Excerpted from The Woman I Was Born to Be by Susan Boyle (Copyright © 2010 by Atria Books: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.)


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