Emotional book tells of Sheffield mum's sudden death and how it pulled her family apart

The heartbreaking story of a Sheffield woman who battled poverty and ill health and the effect of her death on her young family has been told in a book that has touched many readers.

Monday, 14th December 2020, 5:28 pm

Orphans of an Angel was written by Bryan Docker, aged 59, under the pen name of Jay Aston, based on the life of his mum, Evelyn.

The son of a Sheffield miner, Bryan, aged 59, grew up around Woodhouse, Aston, Killamarsh and Swallownest.

The family got into difficulties and became homeless after his father left and then his mother became critically ill, dying in hospital from catastrophic internal bleeding in a coma after an operation.

The cover of Orphans of an Angel, written under the pen name of Jay Aston by Bryan Docker, seen here with partner Joy
The cover of Orphans of an Angel, written under the pen name of Jay Aston by Bryan Docker, seen here with partner Joy

Bryan only discovered recently that his older brother had to make the decision to agree to turn off his mum’s life support when he was only 18.

The decision still haunts him, he told Bryan.

Bryan said: “My mother passed away in 1970 and this year was the 50th anniversary. When mum passed away there were four of us that became homeless, the youngest being four, spending two years inside a children’s home.

“My brother, who was 10, spent a lot of years in a children’s home.

“I was 15½ and fell in between the cracks because social services didn’t pick up the fact that I was homeless. At 16 years of age I was in the world on my own.”

He continued: “The essence of the story is about my mother who struggled with destitution and ill health.

"She tragically passed away and we didn’t expect it.

“It was a struggle for my mum. In my book it took a lot of attempts to write it. I started writing 10 years ago. I had to put it down because my eyes were so blurred with tears I couldn’t write it.”

Finally, his partner Joy prompted Bryan to complete the book, which he self-published and sold online through popular websites such as Amazon and Goodreads.

“If nothing else it was going to be a book of memories for the children and grandchildren. None of them had any idea what the story was about,” said Bryan.

“I was absolutely overwhelmed that after 10 days it went to number one best-seller. I put it under the category of biographies and somebody on Amazon put it under young adult memoir.

“Lots of emails started coming in and it started getting five-star reviews. I sold 1,200 books in two weeks. I thought I’ve done something right.”

Bryan said he got emotional responses from readers.

“One lady sent me a poignant message saying she was one of four sisters whose mother had passed away in 1963 when they were very young and their father could not cope with the tragic loss. They were split up to live with relatives.”

Many enjoyed its evocation of life in the area which brought back their own memories.

Bryan said that he went to live in Doncaster at 16, undergoing more tough times. He eventually became a DJ and then bought an off-licence in Cantley.

Now retired, he moved to Bournemouth 20 years ago.

Bryan said: “I have got lots of happy memories as well. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. I remember catching the tram to Fitzalan Square and going to Millhouses Park every single Sunday.

"We had an annual club trip to the coast on a steam train and we got 10 shillings pocket money.”

Find out more at www.authorjayaston.com

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