Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

How my siblings prove big families are worth their weight in gold

Frances Burscough

In order to make my point this week I am going to tell you a little bit about eight different people. The reason I am listing this selection specifically will become clear towards the end, so do bear with me.

1 John is in his mid-50s and works as a GP in a small but busy NHS practice in Lincolnshire. Like all doctors in general practice, he treats both acute and chronic illnesses, and has provided preventative care and health education to thousands of patients over 30 years. In his free time he writes humorous articles for the British Medical Journal and also devises and sets crosswords for The Times newspaper.

2 Louise is a mother in her early 50s and is the head of the Occupational Therapy Department in a Lancashire psychiatric hospital. Her work is stressful but extremely rewarding as one of her main responsibilities is to prepare and facilitate patients so that they can eventually reintegrate confidently into society and become as independent as possible.

3 Chris is the partner of an architecture practice in Merseyside. Over his career he has designed and overseen hundreds of public buildings such as shopping centres, libraries, restaurants chains and pubs in England and Northern Ireland. He is also a talented photographer and watercolour artist, having exhibited at galleries around the north-west of England and won numerous prizes and awards along the way.

4 Jim is 50-years-old and a graduate of Modern Languages from Merton College, Oxford. When he had finished his studies at this auspicious university, he wanted to see the opposite side of the coin and therefore left his position of privelege to spend the next three years working for Voluntary Services Overseas in a war-torn shanty town in Sierra Leone. While there he taught in a poverty-stricken school where there was no electricity or modern facilities and he lived in a mud hut. He is fluent in five languages and currently teaches English to foreign students at a Salford college.

5 Marie is in her mid-40s and a single mother. She is a civil servant working for a government department in Manchester and has specific responsibility for tracking down, investigating and prosecuting high-profile, high-income tax dodgers. Over the course of her career she has had to deal with Premiership footballers and corrupt millionaire businessmen among many others. Some of her cases have even become headline news.

6 Rachel lives in Leicestershire and has one grown-up teenage daughter and two toddlers under the age of four. She works in the administration department for the emergency services and is also a brilliant cook and a successful caterer. In her spare time she writes restaurant reviews for the Good Food Guide and last year she appeared on the UK Food Channel, demonstrating some of her favourite and most popular dishes.

7 Lucy is 40 years old and lives in Manchester. She studied Fine Art at university in the 1990s and then went on to work for a world-renowned animation company, designing and making models and props for children’s programmes including Postman Pat, Fireman Sam and Noddy. She is also an award-winning portrait artist who has exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London. She has been artist-in-residence at the Whitworth Art Gallery for a couple of years and also works as an art therapist at various children's hospitals.

8And then there's me, living in Northern Ireland. I won't tell you anything about me. Heck — you know all there is to know already, after my five years as a columnist in the Belfast Telegraph’s Weekend Magazine. But what I will tell you is my connection to those above.

They are all my brothers and sisters.

Yes, I'm one of eight children and I'm proud of the fact I'm from such a big family. Nowadays it's seen as being the ultimate selfish act, to have more than 2.4 children, but as my own family proves, that is not always the case. My mum and dad worked hard all their lives to provide for us and to give us the education that allowed us all to go on and make our mark on society in one way or another. Apart from the meagre ‘Family Allowance’ of a few quid per month, they managed on their own with no help, hand-outs, or welfare whatsoever. And now we are all in employment, contributing in so many positive ways to the world around us.

When I see how the Goverment is trying to demonise and persecute couples for choosing to have a number of kids through its welfare reforms, I would like to remind them that this is not communist China. And every third, forth, or fifth child is not automatically going to sponge off and drag down society by default.

Such a notion is naive, ridiculous and wrong.

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