A promise of a better life

On 29th August 2018  BBC News reported that some of the child migrants who were sent to Australia from the UK are planning to sue the UK Government.  The article explains…

Between 1945-70, some 4,000 children were separated from their families and sent to Australia and Zimbabwe.

The Independent Inquiry Into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) considered the children who were forcibly relocated in the post-war period.

A scheme saw children from deprived backgrounds who were often already in social care – some as young as three years old – sent away with the promise of a better life.

I have read many of the accounts bravely shared by victims of this dreadful policy – children who were costing the UK too much to look after within the residential care system.  The ‘cheaper’ option was to send them off to Commonwealth countries who were looking for ‘good white British stock’.

It makes your heart break.

These and many other stories inspired me to write The Forgotten Children  – in the hope that it will increase awareness about this terrible period in British history.

The Forgotten Children is available now for pre-order from Amazon and will be published on November 29th.

 

Not lost, but abandoned

It was 1986 when Nottinghamshire social worker, Margaret Humphreys, was first contacted by a former child migrant in Australia.  She was asked if she could help track down his family in the UK.  That was just the start of a long journey for Margaret, and for the many individuals and families she has helped since that day.

In 1987 she established the Child Migrants Trust, which continues to do vital work in tracking down families and raising awareness.

Here is an excerpt from the Child Migrants Trust website that explains a little of what the children were subjected to:

‘After being told fanciful tales of travel to the ‘Land of Milk and Honey‘, where children ride to school on horseback, child migrants were sent abroad without passports, social histories or even basic documents such as a full birth certificate. Brothers and sisters were frequently separated for most of their childhood; some were loaded onto trucks for long journeys to remote institutions, only to be put to work as labourers the next day. Many felt an extreme sense of rejection by their family and country of origin. Others felt like characters from Kafka’s novels; their punishment was obvious – exile from their family and homeland – but the nature of their crime was a complete mystery.

The tragic reality for many child migrants was appalling standards of care which fell well below standards found within British institutions. Children as young as seven, sent to institutions in Western Australia, were involved in construction works without basic safety measures. Many were injured in building accidents at an age when they would have been in school if they had remained in the United Kingdom.’

Families were torn apart – many never to find each other again.  In a recent news article (Daily Mirror, 30th August 2018) Rex Wade – one of the last child migrants to be sent to Australia in 1970 – tells his story:

“The whole experience ruined my life. We were treated like slaves. It was wrong and should never have happened.”

These and many other stories inspired me to write The Forgotten Children  – in the hope that it will increase awareness about this terrible period in British history.

The Forgotten Children is available now for pre-order from Amazon and will be published on November 29th.

Spending time with friends

I first met Janie Juke in February 2017.  I was walking my Scottie dog, Hamish, along a Spanish beach and she came into my head.  But back then I didn’t know her name, I didn’t know that she would be a mobile librarian and I hadn’t met any of her family and friends.

Since then Janie has become a friend.  I have discovered a little of her likes and dislikes, her fears and insecurities.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know her dad, Phillip, who is a blind physiotherapist and her husband, Greg, who is her soulmate and stalwart supporter.  But I’ve still got a lot to learn about Janie and about my writing craft.

Anyone who has tried their hand at writing fiction will understand that moment when your character takes on a life of their own.  As an author you think you are in control, but once the words start to appear on the page, you discover that you are not.  Well, that’s how it feels to me.

So far, Janie has had two major adventures.  In The Tapestry Bag, Janie is desperate to track down a friend who has gone missing.  By solving that mystery she realises that she has skills as an amateur sleuth and in the early chapters of Lost Property she is surprised to learn that those skills can earn her money.  Just like many young families in the 1960s (or now, for that matter) any opportunity to bolster their financial coffers is grabbed with both hands.

3D 008 sml

The Janie Juke mystery series is set in the late 1960s.  I have loved the chance to look back at that era when The Beatles were breaking the mould of popular music.  Medical advances were coming thick and fast.  Attitudes were changing to sex, crime, women’s rights and family life.

In Lost Property Janie meets Hugh Furness, a Second World War RAF pilot.  She learns something about life during the Second World War, and the years immediately following it.  Researching this era has given me a taste for it and I’d like to spend a bit more time with Hugh.

So what happens next?  Well, I know there is a lot more I have to learn about Janie and her family and friends.  I’m pretty certain she is going to take me on more adventures and I hope you will come along with me…it’s going to be a busy 2018!