June Allison Gibbons
June Allison Gibbons was born in 1963 in Steamer Point hospital, an RAF hospital in Aden. She was the first of identical twins, her sister Jennifer being born just ten minutes later. Her parents were from Barbados. Her father worked for the RAF and was transferred to various bases, ending up at Haverford West in Wales. They had an older sister and older brother and a younger sister. The two twins were very close and had their own high-speed language which no-one else could understand. Indeed, they hardly spoke to anyone else and, when they did, it was usually in grunts or monosyllables. This applied to their own family as much as to outsiders. Speech therapy had little effect. They spoke to no-one at school, teachers or fellow pupils, never ate at school and did not even go tot he toilet while a school. Because of this silence and because they were the only black children in the school, they were bullied. When they wrote essays on separation, there was a clue to what going on. People keep telling us to change, to turn over a new leaf but we are waiting for each other to start first, so if we separate none of us will know if we changed first . . . if we separate now the future will be good for the pair of us. But though the idea appealed to them, the reality terrified them and they resisted. When it did happen, things did not work out well. More particularly, it seemed as though Jennifer was controlling June.
Clearly they could not enter the adult world so, after school, they stayed at home. There they played with dolls and invented stories, with the dolls as American teenagers and, indeed, wrote some of these stories down. (I cannot help thinking of the Brontës inventing their stories with toy soldiers.). Eventually, June wrote The Pepsi-Cola Addict and the pair managed to get it published by a vanity press, though they had to pay £700 from their unemployment benefits to do so. They tried to get their short stories published but were not successful. They next tried pen-pals but that had limited success, so they turned to bad behaviour. This involved sex, drinking, glue-sniffing, shoplifting and similar petty crimes and, finally, arson. They burned down a tractor shed, were caught and arrested. The court decided they were psychologically disturbed and they were sent to Broadmoor, the hospital for the criminally insane.
They were detained in Broadmoor for nearly twelve years and given special medication, which made them worse, particularly Jennifer. They were eventually released to a low security facility nearer the family home. On the journey there, Jennifer seemed to fall asleep on her sister’s shoulder. She could not be woken and was carried in. She died later that day. The cause of death was given as acute myocarditis, possibly caused by the medication she was given. She was twenty-nine. June thought that Jennifer chose to die to free her twin. June is still alive at the time of writing, living in Wales. She has not published anything since.
Books about June Alison Gibbons
Marjorie Wallace: The Silent Twins
June and Jennifer Gibbons
I Found a Rare Copy of June Allison Gibbons’ Outsider Novel
The ‘Silent Twins’ who were so close one of them had to DIE so the other could survive
Silent twins trapped by a destructive bond that was broken only by death
‘Have I the strength to kill her?’
Obituary of Jennifer