I will let the words of the Child Migrants Trust tell this story…
‘Britain is the only country in the world with a sustained history of child migration. Only Britain has used child migration as a key part of its child care strategy over four centuries rather than as a last resort during times of war or civil unrest.
The reality of this policy was to remove children, some as young as three years old from their mothers and fathers, from all that was familiar to them, and to ship them thousands of miles away from their home country to institutions in distant lands within the Commonwealth. Many of these children were removed without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
In the post-war period, child migrants as young as three were shipped to Canada, New Zealand, the former Rhodesia and Australia, a practice that continued as late as 1970.’
It is only as a result of the tireless work of Nottinghamshire social worker, Margaret Humphreys, that much of the truth has come to light.
When I first found out about the child migrants I was shocked. Then I was angry and that anger inspired me to write a book. I realised the best way to help the thousands of people affected by this dreadful policy that lasted for decades, was to raise awareness.
The Forgotten Children follows the journey of a mother, whose child was taken from her at birth. It is fiction, but based on the many factual accounts I read while researching the book.
By telling the fictional story of Emily’s search for her child, I hope The Forgotten Children will encourage more people to be shocked and angry. Perhaps then the individuals and families affected will finally receive the support they deserve.
The Forgotten Children is available now for pre-order from Amazon and will be published on November 29th.
I bought a Sunday paper this week. It’s unusual for me to buy a newspaper, let alone a Sunday one, but I had some time on my hands and was pleased for the chance to browse. I was astounded then as I turned to page 13 of one of the supplements to find an article on Anglesey. Not just any article, but Mark Radcliffe describing Anglesey as the place where he goes:
‘when things have been stressful and it sucks the stresses away somehow’.
As I read through the article I felt as though I had fallen into another universe – the universe in which I was reading the words of the enigmatic Walter from my novel Forgotten Children (which is still in manuscript form).
Walter has a favourite bench on a clifftop, from which he can see the wide bay below and enjoy the seabirds swirling and nature at its wildest. Imagine how strange it felt to read Mark Radcliffe explain:
‘If you climb up a little hillock opposite the church there is a bench there and sitting on it all you can see is the church, the church yard, the sea, the seabirds and ships. I’ve sat there many times, just me and my dog…’
In Forgotten Children Walter helps the protagonist Emily through a difficult time in her life, gently sharing his wisdom, wisdom that has come to him as the result of a difficult childhood. He settled in Anglesey as it gave him a sense of peace, a place where he could be at one with nature. He feels safe and part of a small community, where he is not judged.
Walter would agree with Mark Radcliffe who says about Anglesey that it has:
‘got under my skin and really does have a special place in my heart.’
Walter wouldn’t be surprised that I picked up that newspaper, or that the article was on page 13. I’m sure he would say that fate takes us to the places where we need to be.
I woke this morning to listen again to some of the horrors experienced by the British child migrants. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales has the first day of public hearings today and its initial focus will be the British children sent to Australia between 1945 and 1974.
I was studying for my MA in Professional Writing when I first learned about these children, some as young as four years old, who were taken from British care homes and put on ships to journey to the other side of the world. When they arrived they were placed in institutions where they were often used as slave labour. They experienced dreadful neglect, hardship and abuse of all kinds. It was only when a Nottinghamshire social worker, Margaret Humphries, started to investigate that the truth came to light. In 1987 she founded the Child Migrants Trust and she has since dedicated the rest of her life to helping children – now adults – to find out the truth about their past.
There have been several books already written about the child migrants, one of which was made into a heart-wrenching film, Oranges and Sunshine.
The more I read about the sad tales of the children who were taken from all they knew in the name of providing ‘good, sound British stock’ for our colonies, the more I felt impelled to try to raise awareness in the best way I know how.
I am currently putting the finishing touches to my novel Forgotten Children, which tells of a mother’s desperate attempts to find her son, and a young man’s search for his parents. The story is inspired by the factual accounts of some of the child migrants, who contributed to a book, entitled, Lost Children of the Empire, which is now out of print, but I managed to track it down in the British Library. It made for sad reading.
Forgotten Children will be published later this year.