Marjorie Rigby: 102-year-old great-grandmother finds her stillborn baby's 'lost' grave after 76 years
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND: A 102-year-old great-grandmother has described her "big relief" after finally discovering the resting place of her stillborn baby girl 76 years after she fell pregnant.
Marjorie Rigby, from Dukinfield, Greater Manchester, was pregnant with her first child after tying the knot with her husband Charlie Rigby, who fought for five years in Italy and Africa during World War II. The retired secretary, who reportedly also served in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, was taken to a private nursing clinic to deliver baby Laura in September 1946. But after spending three days in labor, she overheard her consultant doctor say that the child had died in the womb.
Marjorie was taken to a hospital for the birth, where staff told her that her dead daughter would be taken to an "incinerator". The devastated mother was never told what happened to her baby following the stillbirth. Speaking to BBC North West Tonight, Marjorie recounted the consultant doctor's conversation. "This baby is dead. We'll get her into hospital," she recalled him telling the matron. "He just spoke to her really, rather than me."
Marjorie had to deliver her daughter knowing that she was dead. However, she hadn't an inkling of what happened next for more than 70 years after the traumatic episode. "I was just taken back to my room and left," she said. "No one came to talk to me and tell me how to get on with life." The heartbroken mother was sent home two weeks later, which was standard practice at the time. "I just went home and carried on," Marjorie recalled. While she had two more daughters over the years, her oldest child was never far from her mind. "Every year I get a new diary at Christmas and the first date I put in is 3 September - Laura's birthday," she said. "Every year for 70-odd years."
BBC North West Tonight aired a documentary earlier this year telling the story of Lilian Thorpe, who found her stillborn son's resting place 61 years after the fact. Marjorie's daughter Angela Rigby watched that program and decided to do her own research. She eventually found the charity Brief Lives Remembered, which helped the family trace Laura's grave to a cemetery in Stockport. They also advised on how to get the stillbirth certificate that meant so much to them.
"We found out that our sister had her own little coffin and had been buried with five other babies and an adult in an unmarked plot," Angela said. "We told mum and we went to see the plot and just took a little bunch of flowers from the garden. The look of peace on mum's face was worth everything. It was just amazing." Marjorie visited her daughter's grave in July with her family. "It was a relief to know that she actually had a grave and a baby coffin had been placed in a proper burial ground," she said. "Nobody to my knowledge had confirmed that – that my baby had actually been buried. So I'm relieved that the whole thing has come to a conclusion, and that I know where she is."