“For you mighty sister, holding onto me forever.” How close would you say you were to your sister? How far would you go for the bond to your sister?
This week’s visit to the incredible 1998 album ‘This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours’ by the Manic Street Preachers sees us visit the story of two identical twins whose bond for each other saw them end up in Broadmoor and one dying on the journey out of the prison upon receiving freedom. The song that tells the tale of the sisters, was the outstanding Tsunami, one of my particular favourites from the album.
June and Jennifer Gibbons were born on April 11, 1963, the daughters of Carribean immigrants who came to Wales as part of the Windrush generation.
The children were troubled, and in a world where the family experienced discrimination to the point where they’d leave school early to avoid bullying, the twin girls quickly retreated into their own little world, literally for they would only communicate with each other and their younger sister, in their own made up language.
During school, the girls would refuse to read or write, and eventually were sent to separate boarding schools to break their isolation, however, the pair were reunited after becoming catatonic and withdrawn while apart.
Their later childhood saw the twins isolated in their bedrooms, engaging in elaborate plays with dolls, creating plays and soap operas and reading them aloud on tape for Rose.
On Christmas 1979, the sisters were given diaries as a present and it was in these they would begin their writing careers.
Set primarily in the United States, particularly Malibu, California, the sisters would write stories involving young men and women who exhibit strange and often criminal behaviour.
One example, written by June was titled ‘The Pepsi-Cola Addict’ in which a high school hero is seduced by a teacher, then sent away to a reformatory where a homosexual guard makes a pass on him. Using their unemployment benefits, the twins tried to get the novel published by the vanity press. It remains their only fully published work.
In their later teenage years, the twins began using drugs and alcohol, and eventually after commiting a number of crimes including vandalism, petty theft and arson, they were admitted to Broadmoor indefinitely under the Mental Health Act 1983.
Even writing to the Queen didn’t stop their eventual 12-year incarceration for a crime usually punished with two years or less.
According to journalist Marjorie Wallace, who wrote a book about them, the pair had a longstanding agreement that if one died, the other must speak and live a normal life, eventually believing that it was necessary for one of the two to die and that Jennifer had agreed she would be the sacrifice.
In March 1993, the twins were finally freed, being transferred from Broadmoor to Caswell Clinic in Bridgend.
On arrival, Jennifer could not be aroused, for she had died of acute myocarditis, a sudden inflammation of the heart.
Aside from two interviews, June has lived a quiet and independent life in West Wales, no longer monitored by psychiatric services and accepted by her community.
The family blamed Broadmoor for ruining the lives of the twins.