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Australian Story -

View in ParlView

The Born Identity

PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT: Monday, 14 March , 2005

DELTA GOODREM - PRESENTER: Hi, I'm Delta Goodrem. On tonight's Australian Story we look at a man
who I first met on 'Neighbours'. He's the beautiful Ian Smith.

Now, millions of fans around the world know him affectionately as the daggy old-timer Harold
Bishop. Well, Harold's been through his turmoils and his tragedies and ups and downs for over the
past 20 years. Ian proves that in his real life he has been thrown into turmoil and it shows that
old saying that real life really is much stranger than fiction. It's been a case of reality
outdoing the soap opera. It's the beginning of a relationship between a woman who had never heard
of 'Neighbours' and Ian himself. This is their story.

PEG KLINE: When I first watched Ian as Harold, I thought, "What an old fuddy-duddy." And actually
he is an old fuddy-duddy and that's the part that he created. I suppose he would be one of the
longest-serving of the cast. It amazed me that this character seemed to be so loved, so very much
looked up to.

JACKIE WOODBURNE - COLLEAGUE: Once a week there's a backpackers' night where young British tourists
come to meet some of their favourite 'Neighbours' characters, and a regular at these nights is Ian.
Harold comes on and the roof lifts. Ian is probably the most popular character in the show, and the
most popular person that does backpackers. It truly is like he is a rock star, and he loves it! To
play all that out in front of an audience, maybe it's been a distraction from his own soap opera,
to be able to play his Harold soap opera. Maybe one has helped the other.

IAN SMITH: If I was writing scripts about me in trying to duplicate my life on screen, I may have
dreamed up a similar sort of story, but I don't think I would have done it justice. Because how
could I? As a young boy, I had no real playmates, no-one that I felt I belonged with. I was an only
child, spoiled rotten. It was very lonely at times, so I lived in my dream world. When I think back
on my parents, Mum and Dad, or Connie and Gordon, I just wondered how I ended up in what I'm doing
now, because they were totally the opposite.

GAIL SMITH - WIFE: And I used to wonder when I met him where he got, I don't know, that
personality, that verve, because I couldn't see it in his parents. So, it was, yeah, very quiet,
very very friendly, loving people, but quiet, unassuming.

IAN SMITH: They loved me more than a lot of parents did. And yet that's what hurts me now - that I
couldn't return it. I just couldn't do it. I was not physically able or mentally able to return
that love. I mean, love didn't come into my life until Gail came along and then I said, "Oh, that's
what it's all about." I found out that any baby who is not given to the mother within a certain
amount of time, it doesn't happen. There's something missing.

JACKIE WOODBURNE - COLLEAGUE: Ian certainly has a public persona all over the world that he's
comfortable with, and that the world enjoys seeing. But in his private times, he's certainly not
going to show to the world the bleak and the dark times that I know he goes through.

GAIL SMITH - WIFE: Ian was 54 when his mother phoned to say she had something she wanted to tell
us. And it just...it was just...completely change of life for Ian. I mean, everything turned
around, turned upside down.

IAN SMITH: Around about 11 years ago, when my mother was in her 80s, she had to have a hip
replacement, and she was terrified that she was not going to get through the operation. And she
woke up one morning just knowing that she had to tell me. And all she could blurt out to me was,
"Ian, you're adopted. You were adopted." Well, I can't talk much about what happened then within -
I'm talking about within minutes or seconds, or minutes, because um, I did sort of pass out
standing up, and still remained standing. I know that I went dreadfully cold, unbelievably cold,
and I remember Mum saying, "Look at him, look at him, he didn't know."

GAIL SMITH - WIFE: I did feel a sadness for Ian's mum, Connie, in some respects, because it was
like she was giving him up and I don't really think she wanted to, but that was the sense I got.
You know, she felt she should do the right thing.

IAN SMITH: I felt betrayed. I felt that the first 54 years of my life had been a total lie, and I
hated everyone who was part of that lie. I went into a terrible, terrible mental breakdown. I had
the worst time. I was doing that...all the time. I was...and I almost analysed why people do that.
They can feel the back of the chair hitting up against their back and they think, yes, I am here.
Yes, I am existing. Yes, I am. It's me. I'm still here. I'm existing. I can feel that. I can still
rock. I can stop if I want, but, no, I think I'll keep going. And I think that's how bad you get.
You can get no worse.

JACKIE WOODBURNE - COLLEAGUE: When he looks at himself and he doesn't quite know, "Who is Ian?" And
to try and, to try and make those adjustments at this point in his life - I mean, normally we're
kind of working out who we are when we're much younger.

IAN SMITH: My poor mum. I mean she was, she was in bed, she was dying. She had 24 hours to go. I
knew she had 24 hours to go, but I was so screwed up in the head. I told her that she was wrong for
not telling me. I mean, how can you do that to a woman who's about to die - to anyone that... tell
them, accuse them of being wrong? I'll never... I'll take that to the grave with me, that. I can't
believe I ever did that, but I did it.

GAIL SMITH - WIFE: I think I did say to him, are you going to see if you can locate your mother?

IAN SMITH: I didn't want to have anything to do with it. I wasn't going to look for my mother. She
didn't want me, I don't want her. I had to have someone to blame. I had to have someone to blame.

PEG KLINE: When I was 13 - it was in 1938 - and I was a very naïve, uneducated 13-year-old. Parents
couldn't bring themselves to talk about sex or things like that. It was this so-called friend of
the family and he was 26 years old. And he did the wrong thing.

I used to sleep in a sleep-out right at the back of the house and, of course, the back door was
always open. One night I just woke up and he was there. And that happened on about four occasions.
He said, "Just don't tell anyone. This is just between us." And I never said a word, never said a
word about it. It's the way that it finally came to pass, but Mum had put her arm across to give me
a cuddle and she actually felt the baby move, but that started it all. I just felt like putty.
Whatever anybody said do, I did. I had no discussion about what I wanted to happen with the baby,
never even had a glimpse of him, and I remember that anguish. The father of my child just
disappeared into the blue. He died some years ago. Then I came home after that and went to work
and, got on with, got on with my life. But never ever, never ever forgot.

IAN SMITH: Eventually I just woke up one morning and said, no, I want to do it. I've got to find
out. I've just got to at least say hello to her if she's still alive, or look at her from a
distance.

PEG KLINE: The only person I ever told about having a babe was my husband before we were married.
And in 54 years, he was the only person I ever, ever told. I can't really explain, because the
thoughts of him never diminished. I felt such guilt. I felt such terrible guilt. Sorry.

IAN SMITH: I went to the organization known as 'Vanish'. And I sat down with them and within half
an hour, I knew absolutely everything about Peg. I knew where she lived. I knew that her husband
had died about 14 months prior to this and she had two sons - one was married and the other was
not. So I sat down with a piece of paper and a pen and I think I started off with something like:
"I have to tell you before I start that this is possibly the hardest letter I've ever had to write
and every chance that it's the hardest letter you will ever have to read."

PEG KLINE: It was a beautiful Melbourne autumn day and I read the first two lines, and I knew
straightaway that it was him. I dialled the number and this lady answered and I said, "Would that
be Gail?"

GAIL SMITH: It just got a bit teary then. Sorry. And then Ian did come home and I said to him, I
said, "I told you she'd ring."

PEG KLINE: And she said, "Well, Peg, you may know already what he looks like. Do you watch
'Neighbours'?" And I said, "I've never watched 'Neighbours' in my life.".

GAIL SMITH: And then he just got in the car and went around to see her.

IAN SMITH: It took a lot of - I can't tell you the courage it took. And I thought, I don't believe
this. I'm going to turn around and I'm going to see my mother. You know, 54 years old, I'm going to
turn around, I'm going to see my mother for the first time and she's going to see me.

PEG KLINE: We didn't say a word. We just hugged and then I said, "Oh, Ian, come inside," because he
wore those big, thick glasses then. I said, "Come inside and take your glasses off. I want to see
who you look like." And he said, "Oh, Peg, I'm the image of you.".

IAN SMITH: I thought, ooh! It was a bit of a shoulder-dropper, actually. I relaxed a little bit. It
was almost like 54 years of "Why don't I look like somebody?" had suddenly been answered, because I
did look like somebody and there she was, standing there. Peg told me the circumstances of my
conception. She was 13 years old and he was 26 or 27. Well, as far as I'm concerned he's scum. I
would not want to have anything to do with him. I think I would be upset if I looked like him,
because that would be something

I'd have to live with. I don't look like him, I look like Peg. I look very much like Peg.

PEG KLINE: I do feel I've missed out on such a lot. But when I look at Ian when he was younger,
God, he was a handsome devil. And I often wonder had we kept him in the family, would he have had
this same opportunity to be part of the theatre?

STEVE KLINE - PEG KLINE'S SON: Mum had to work. You know, Dad at various times went into hospital
to have the electrotherapy sessions and, you know, he had various bouts in institutions. Their
relationship was a pretty stormy one.

IAN SMITH: And he treated her rather poorly, and the boys, treated them both poorly.

STEVE KLINE - PEG KLINE'S SON: Since Dad passed away, Mum has been free really, in many ways.

GAIL SMITH - WIFE: Now I see where Ian gets all his, I guess a lot of the personality. To me, Peg
is a bit of a frustrated actress.

JACKIE WOODBURNE - COLLEAGUE: I think that recognition was a big piece of the puzzle put together
for Ian. I think he did look at Peg and think, "That's me. Oh, yeah, that bit's me. Oh, that's not
me. Oh, that bit's me. Oh, I don't like that bit, but it's me.". So he had to acknowledge all that
stuff.

IAN SMITH: She's a show-off. I suppose that is the basic need of anyone in the business. You've got
to have the need to stand out in front of people. To have instant recognition of your ability. And
I thought, oh, I thought I was a little more subtle than that. But I realised when I met Peg that I
wasn't, I was exactly the same as Peg. And Peg is better than myself because she openly admits -
she says, "Yeah, I love it. That's it. I love being the centre of attention.". So I don't deny it
anymore.

JACKIE WOODBURNE - COLLEAGUE: So he has had to go on an incredible journey with Peg, and Peg
herself is as big a human being as Ian is. She is an extraordinary woman.

IAN SMITH: The only one bad part of this story is that I do feel a brotherly thing for my brothers,
for Neil and Steve, but the motherly thing hasn't happened with Peg, and I'm sad to say that, but
it's the truth. I mean, I'm sad to say because Peg would dearly love it to happen. But I'm sure she
understands that I've got her down as possibly - well, my best friend next to Gail.

PEG KLINE: I look on Ian as my first son. I said, "Look, Ian, your mum is the one who made you do
your homework, sat up with you when you were sick, gave you medicine, rubbed your chest with Vicks.
That's your mum.". I said, "My name's Peg, so call me Peg.". And that's what I've been ever since.
And I think - I think he just looks on me as perhaps an older sister. I don't care how he looks on
me, as long as he keeps looking.

STEVE KLINE - PEG KLINE'S SON: Only perhaps six weeks ago Mum went in for what we thought to be a
fairly routine hernia operation and it was discovered during that operation that there were
tumours, cancerous cells, in her stomach and also in, some in her lungs. And we've been informed
it's very serious. And it's really...it's really hit us

like a bolt out of the blue.

IAN SMITH: I hate watching what's happening to her. It's dreadful, I hate it. It's happened to too
many people that I know. My two adopted parents, I watched them do that. I mean, it's such a filthy
thing to watch. One of my newly acquired nephews is about to be married - Sam. And suddenly here I
am with my brother's son getting married. I've had Gail's sisters and brothers' children getting
married, but this seems closer, somehow, because it is in my bloodline. Funny thing. Blood will
out, isn't it? Blood is thicker than water. It...it means a lot to me.

TOM KLINE - PEG KLINE'S GRANDSON: I suppose it's always in the back of your mind when someone who's
as ill as Nanna is, that she won't make it to such an event, but I think that she will push through
with it. I think she is so excited about it that it's given her reason to fight and to keep going.

PEG KLINE: On 15th January I will be 80, and I'm going to have a whiz-bang do. Going to have a
really big party, and I love parties.

TOM KLINE - PEG KLINE'S GRANDSON: My grandmother is a party animal. Not only was she sitting there
with her head held high, she was also fighting to, just to you know, keep the energy levels high
because she didn't want to miss a minute of it.

PEG KLINE: I always envisaged that at least I would reach 100. So it's daunting to find

that's not going to be the case, but I have had a fortunate life. The two beautiful sons

I had for years and years and then a third beautiful son to arrive and just brighten up that shadow
that was always in the background of my life, that's all gone. Really, I'm not really sure now that
Ian's come to terms with everything. I know he likes us all because we all get along so well
together. And I really hope that one day he feels very, very easy about it. He may do now. He may
do now. But I, I'm not sure about that.

IAN SMITH: How could I possibly describe my feelings? How could I possibly describe the turning
around from my car and there was Peg looking at me - the first person who had ever looked like me
in my life? How could I possibly describe the emotions of Peg walking up and saying, "I've got some
bad news, love. The cancer has taken off again."? How can I? You can't.

JACKIE WOODBURNE - COLLEAGUE: I suspect that if they had longer together, he would think of her as
his mother, eventually. I think this cruel end is going to cheat them both of that opportunity to
find those feelings.

PEG KLINE: I haven't any fears for my family's future. They're all so well-adjusted to life. I know
they'll miss me. They better or else I'll come back and haunt them! But um, yeah, they'll miss me,
but I hope they remember me with a laugh. I'm sure they will.