At the end of Patti Boulaye’s autobiography, at the bottom of page 352, the sharp-sighted will spot some mysterious initials. After the final sentence – “For you, who have just read my story, I pray that all your prayers will be answered” – you will find the initials TTGOG.

“They stand for ‘Thank The Glory Of God’,” the singer and actress reveals, as she sips a fresh mint tea in the west London café where we’ve met to discuss her newly published book The Faith of a Child. “I deliberately put the message in code. I think it’s stronger when someone asks what the letters stand for.”

This message of gratitude to the Lord could sum up Patti’s attitude to her extraordinary life. Now 62, with a mane of thick dark hair, huge cat-like eyes and a star to the tips of her scarlet-lacquered fingernails, everything about her life has been exceptional.

She was born Patricia Ebigwei in rural eastern Nigeria in 1954. She was one of eight children (one died in infancy) who were brought up as strict Catholics: there was a bell for prayers every morning at five and she went to a Catholic girls’ school. Her mother worked as a machinist in a factory, her father ran a post office. When she was two, her parents split up and went through a bitter divorce, leaving the family penniless. Patti, dressed in rags, became separated from her mother.

The family’s fortunes were restored when Patti’s mother married a prominent politician in 1957, and she and Patti were reunited.

But there were more dramas to come. Between 1967 and 1970 Nigeria was in the throes of the Biafran war. Patti was caught behind enemy lines and witnessed unimaginable horrors. Her mother, whom she credits with being the greatest influence on her life, hid as many as 30 people at a time in their house as Patti witnessed one massacre after another. Later she lost two of her brothers, one a pilot who died in a horrific plane crash.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection