Why Christmas is special, by festive baby abandoned in Bury St Edmunds 83 years ago

Jean Batram

Jean Batram - Credit: Gregg Brown

Christmas has always been a special time for 82-year-old Jean Batram – and that is largely down to her extraordinary start in life.

Jean Batram holding a photograph of her biological mother who she did not meet until she was 45-year

Jean Batram holding a photograph of her biological mother who she did not meet until she was 45-years-old. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Jean was abandoned at birth by her biological mother – left in a box on a doorstep in Bury St Edmunds on December 29, 1932.

Jean’s first three-and-a-half years were spent living at the Alexandra Children’s Home in the town.

She was nearly four-years-old before she experienced her first Christmas – something she vividly remembers.

“There was a stocking on the bottom of the bed and you wondered why,” she said. “You found books and toys and crayons that you had never had before. You had to share them at the home.”

Jean Batram when she was 15.

Jean Batram when she was 15. - Credit: Gregg Brown


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Years later, her early life is still an emotional subject. Travelling through Bury on a coach once, she said she watched all the houses passing by and wondered if she was passing the one where she was abandoned.

“That made me feel quite a lump in my throat,” she said. “I couldn’t talk for a few minutes.”

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She recalls, as a four-year-old, asking her foster mother Ida Waterman what Christmas was.

“She said it was Christmas Day and I didn’t really know what that was until then,” said Jean.

Jean was fostered, along with several other children, in Great Barton. She still lives there now, in Livermere Road.

“I hadn’t known Christmas Day before,” she recalled. “I suppose in the home it got all mixed up. I didn’t know it from any other day.”

Her biological mother would not have been allowed to keep her, Jean later learned, as she was not married when she was born.

“She dumped me so she had somewhere to live herself, hoping I would be all right,” she said.

Jean did not see her until she 45 and her mother died not long after.

“I think more about it now – about then – than I did for years,” she said. “I was bringing my family up – I wanted my own family because I didn’t have anybody.”

She now has seven children – six sons and one daughter – as well as 15 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Originally named Jean Boreham, Jean now has the surname Batram after her second husband Jonny who has passed away. Her first husband Ray Clements also passed away.

This year she is spending Christmas Day with her son and her foster sister.

Nearly 80 years later, on December 25 her thoughts turn back to 1936.

“I’ve called it a Christmas to remember, because it’s the first Christmas I remember,” she said.

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