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In association with The Royal Bank of Scotland

I have absolutely no regrets

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George Jamieson - now living as April Ashley

From Ashley's earliest days he suffered the nagging notion of being a woman trapped in a man's body. She says: "I was so fed up with everyone saying 'Are you a girl or a boy?', that I thought the only thing to do was to try and emulate my whole family who went to sea.

"My father, Frederick, whom I adored, was in the Royal Navy and was torpedoed a couple of times. Sadly, he was away throughout the war and when he did come home he was very loving but always drunk. He had a passion for Guinness and oysters.

"Aged 15, I was the youngest person in modern times to go to sea. I joined Furness Withy Line and my first job was on the SS Pacific Fortune from Manchester. We sailed to Jamaica, the Panama Canal, Los Angeles and finally Seattle.

"I loved going to sea. When I've been in the middle of the Pacific or Atlantic I used to have a little hidden place called the poop-deck. I'd sit up there and look at the stars, the dolphins and whales and I was in seventh heaven.

"Unfortunately, when the men were in port they'd get drunk and the bullying would start. Now those men were marvellous, all Scottish, but once they had the dreaded drink it was different. Happily I shared the cabin with two young men who were quite protective of me.

"Sadly, on the second trip I'd had enough and tried to commit suicide with a drug overdose in Los Angeles and that was the end of my naval career.

"I returned to the market people. I was growing up, but my thoughts were black and I tried to kill myself by throwing myself into the River Mersey. They put me away in Ormskirk Mental Institution.

"They tied me to a bed and you had all these screaming people around you. You were not allowed to eat with anything but a spoon. If you went to the toilet two big men would come with you. It was very humiliating.

"I met this madman, Dr Valliaunt, and he decided if I wanted to leave I would have to be a voluntary patient for electric shock treatment, which went on for six weeks. It's utterly barbaric. I had everything you could imagine, including truth drugs. The problem was that I told them I wanted to be a woman, and they said I was mad. I was told that I'd have to become a homosexual, but that wasn't what I wanted. I'd been molested by gay men, but I'm not going into that."


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