Alexander Averin

Wednesday 24 February 2010

The Lost Children

Dear Diary,

I was going to post just a poem, a picture, a song and a  thought for the day.

I was going to have a little rant about the media’s obsession with so called celebrity’s divorces.

Other things are on my mind. 

On this days of apologies there will be a lot of tears being shed all over the world.  My thoughts are of all lost children wherever they are.

I copied this from a CBS website.  I make no apologies.   Their story needs to be told.

Feb. 3, 2002
The Lost Children

It's a mind-boggling story, one that sounds more like a bad movie than reality. But it happened. In the two decades after World War II, 10,000 English children were sent to Australia, reports 60 Minutes II Correspondent Bob Simon. Many were mistreated and abused. All were lied to.

The story begins in Britain after World War II - a nation victorious but battered, broke, and burdened by overflowing children's homes. Many of the kids were put there by families too poor to raise them. What happened next is almost unfathomable in civilized countries or in modern times.
The British government, in collaboration with churches and charities, developed a secret plan to clear out these children's homes; a plan which has only recently been uncovered. The kids were told that they would be adopted by loving families in Australia. And they were shipped off by the thousands. It was as simple as that.

The first ship to sail in 1947 was the SS Asturias. Cargo: 147 boys and girls. John Hennessy, 11 years old at the time, was one of those children. Only a few weeks before it sailed, some priests and bureaucrats showed up at his children's institution in England. They were rounding up kids to go to Australia.

"We thought Australia was down the street or it was around the corner," says Hennessy. "How did we know it was on the other side of the world? Well, anyway, they, they came with the stories, you know, that there's fruits there, plenty of fruits."

Like many children, Mary Molloy didn't quite grasp what was being proposed: "I just thought, you know, we're going away for a while."

All across Britain, at children's homes and institutions, kids were being told the same thing: you're going to a new land, a new life, a new family. Many were illegitimate children. Many were dropped off by single mothers who'd fallen on hard times.

But that's not what the kids were told. Tony Jones, who at the time was in a boys' home in Malvern, England, was told that his parents had died: "They said, 'You're an orphan now.' And I was an orphan."

That's what they told all the kids, that they were orphans. That there was nobody for them in Britain.

Over the next 20 years, 10,000 children, somas young as 3, none older than 15, would depart unaccompanied for their new homes in Australia.

Six weeks and 12,000 miles later, the children arrived at the Fremantle docks in Western Australia. They looked around for the fruit trees, the kangaroos, the adoptive families they were told would be waiting for them. But there was none of that here. There was something quite different.

Not long after they disembarked, they received a lecture from a man in black, the archbishop of Perth.

Hennessy remembers the man's speech: "He said, 'We welcome you to Australia. We need you for white stock.' Because at this stage, the 'white Australia' policy was on. And we didn't know that we were part of the scheme to - to populate Australia with the - the white people. And the archbishop says, 'The reason why we do [is] because we are terrified of the Asian hordes!' Course, we didn't understand that."

These children were a commodity to a continent that was terrified of being overwhelmed by Asia. They had, in essence, been exported by a nation that had a surplus of white people.

Afterwards, the children's fingerprints were taken and they were herded into lines. Says Hennessy: "They grabbed the girls from their brothers. Brothers from their sisters, screaming. And I can still hear the screams today."

These children, who'd been plucked from institutions in Britain, were now trucked to all over Australia. Where? To institutions. No parents were waiting for them - just picks and shovels.

John Hennessy was sent to a place called Bindoon, an institution run by the Christian Brothers, an order of Catholic monks 60 miles from civilization in the sweltering bushland of Western Australia. Bindoon was a home and school for boys. But this was no Boys Town, and education was not the priority.

The priority was construction. Brother Francis Keaney, an imposing, white-haired Irishman who ran the place, was obsessed with building the largest Catholic institution in Western Australia. He used his charges as labor. From sunrise to sunset, the boys built Brother Keaney's shrine, with no shoes, and no questions asked.

Bindoon is a real school now, an agricultural college. But it's still run by the Christian Brothers. And old boys are not welcome, particularly not when they're accompanied by newsmen. When Bob Simon went back with Hennessy, who helped build Bindoon, they were kicked off the premises. The Christian Brothers are not eager to showcase their past as users and abusers of child labor.

"They got us dirt cheap," says Norman Johnston, another boy who helped build Bindoon. "We might as well have been slaves. And, you know, we endured all of that when we didn't have to."

For these children, there was nowhere to run. At the Fairbridge institution, sponsored by the Church of England, Tony Jones tried to escape whenever he could. He once made it as far as the docks where the children had first arrived.

Says ones: "I got down to the beach. I remember looking all over the ocean, and I asked this couple, 'Which way is England?' If there was land all the way across, I would have walked there. I would have walked there."

The food at the institutions seemed to have been cooked up in a Dickens novel. At Bindoon, the boys were so hungry one Sunday, 12-year-old John Hennessy led a raid on the vineyard out back. They enjoyed their grapes, but after mass the next morning, Brother Keaney was in a rage. He'd learned of the raid, and he called out for his leading suspect.

Then the man whipped him. "He stripped me naked," he says. "In front of 50 boys, put me across the chair and nearly flogged me to death. I've-I've-I've got medical advice that that's where I got the stutter from." He had never stuttered before that day, and has ever since.

The children say that floggings and beatings were part of a daily routine. The nightly routine with the Christian Brothers included priestly visits to the children's beds. The brothers were taking away boys who were less than 10 years old.

Hugh McConnell was 9 years old. One night, a bad storm hit Castledare, his children's home run by the Christian Brothers. Terrified that the world was coming to an end, Hugh ran outside and hid under a tree, where a Christian Brother found him. The man invited McConnell into his bed, where the boy fell asleep quickly. Later that night, the priest raped him.

There was no one to go to. Certainly not the Australian government, which was the legal guardian of the children. "The state supposedly were to be looking after us," says Johnston. "In the nine years I was institutionalized in Australia, I have never been spoken to by a child welfare officer. These Christian Brothers had us for what they wanted in those institutions. And they did with us what they would."

The head of the Christian Brothers in Western Australia, Tony Shanahan, admits that there was abuse, but he also suggests that some of the stories may have been exaggerated. A British government inquiry last year was more critical, saying that what happened at institutions run by the Christian Brothers in Western Australia was of "a quite exceptional depravity."

In 1993, the Christian Brothers, responding to a lawsuit, officially apologized to the child migrants and paid reparations totalling $2.5 million dollars to 250 who'd been abused at their institutions. The girls, who'd been sent to different places, suffered very little sexual abuse compared to the boys, but many were beaten, and all were exploited as free labour.

The shipments of both boys and girls stopped suddenly in 1967. The British simply didn't have any more children available for export.

But the 10,000 already in Australia? Only five - not 5,000 - were ever adopted. Few had birth certificates or documents of any kind. It seems their motherland wanted them to disappear without a trace.

Mary Molloy grew up in an institution outside Sydney. When she graduated into the real world and applied for a passport, she was in for a surprise.

"The only way I could get a passport was to become a naturalized Australian," says Molloy. "I thought I was. Now, to me, that was crazy. I've been out here since I was 9. I was brought out here. And yet, I wasn't acknowledged as an Australian. And yet, according to Britain, I didn't live there anymore. So, where was I?"

For decades, Britain was able to forget about the children it threw away. For decades, the children believed what they were told, that they were orphans.

But just a few years ago, these lost children - now lost adults scattered all over Australia - were stunned to learn that none of this was true. They weren't orphans at all.

The governments of Great Britain and Australia, the Catholic Church and the Church of England had not only exploited and abused these 10,000. They had conned the kids for 50 years.

Not only had these lost children been shipped 12,000 miles from Britain to the bottom of the world. Not only had they been exploited and abused. They had been deceived.

They weren't orphans. They had families back in Britain, families which had dropped them off at institutions with every intention of getting them back.

When Tony Jones discovered that his mother was still alive in England, he was shocked: "All them years, and they didn't even tell me I had a family?" he says.

Too poor to care for him, Maud Jones had placed Tony in a children's home in England after she divorced his father. She never gave consent for Tony to be shipped to Australia. She was never even asked.

It took Jones months to save enough money to return home to see his mom. Their reunion was set for the middle of January 1993. But she died just two weeks before that.

Jones went back for the funeral. "I saw my mother in the coffin," he says. "It's the most heartbreaking time of my life. And they knew she was alive. They knew. Bastards."

When he was a boy, the Church of England told him his parents were dead. That was a lie. When he grew up, the British and Australian governments told him his records didn't exist. That was another lie. And Tony Jones was far from alone.

That was the conclusion reached by Margaret Humphreys, an English social worker who began lifting the lid on this sordid chapter in Britain's history.

Humphreys stumbled upon the story accidentally when one of her clients insisted that her younger brother had been put on a boat to Australia as a child. Humphreys set up an organization called the Child Migrants Trust to help the children find their birth certificates, their parents and their past.

The trust bought copies of every birth, marriage and death certificate in England dating back to 1890, a total of more than 100 million documents on microfilm.

It was the database for a desperate search. Of the 10,000 child migrants, Humphreys and her staff could find only one who was actually an orphan. Month after month, year after year, they found more and more parents alive in Britain.

"The astonishing thing was that they had no idea that their children had been sent to Australia," says Humphreys. "They had not signed any papers for adoption or migration. And for most of them, they had gone back to collect, to reclaim, their children - to bring them home."

"They went to bring them back home to their families - to be told, and given explanations like, your son or daughter's been placed with a very loving family in England. They're very happy. We're not going to disturb them now. You did your best for them. Goodbye," she says.

As a child, Mary Molloy had also been told her mother was dead. But Humphreys and her team couldn't find a death certificate for her mother, May Fitzgerald. They continued searching, and last December, Humphreys flew to Sydney to give Molloy some startling news. Her mother was alive.

Molloy was ecstatic. "It's incredible. I mean, everything's based on a lie, right from the beginning. It's just one lousy lie," says Molloy, breaking down as she says it.

Her mother had been lied to by the priests. As a single mother, . Fitzgerald had placed her daughter in a Catholic children's home. A year later, she told the home she wanted Mary back, but was informed that her daughter was being adopted. Fitzgerald fired off a telegram telling the priests to stop the adoption, but was told it was too late.

A few weeks ago, Mary Molloy packed for an improbable journey back in time. For nearly a half century, ever since she had been put on a boat to Australia, she had thought of herself as a war orphan. Now it was time for Molloy to be a child again, and for 80-year-old May Fitzgerald to be a mother again.

Accompanied by her daughter Beverly and family friends, Molloy left Sydney for a 22-hour trip to Dublin to meet her mom.

Can you call it lucky to meet your mother when you're 55 years old? In terms of these child migrants, the answer is yes. In terms of the 10,000, Molloy was one of the lucky few.

Humphreys says that many thousands of these "orphans" have not yet found their parents. And as both parents and children age, time is running out.

Help from the Australian government hasn't been forthcoming. The nation that so desperately wanted white stock has never offered the mildest mea culpa for its treatment of the children.

When Philip Ruddock, the Australian minister of immigration, is asked why the Australian government hasn't apologized, "I don't know what we would be necessarily apologizing for," he says.

"What we sought to do in Australia was to provide an environment in which young people who were brought here and chosen by a government abroad were given opportunities for a new life. And many have had that opportunity," he says.

Ruddock says that he isn't sure that the horrible stories he's heard are really true.

As for Great Britain, the country that deported its kids in the first place, there has been a vast silence ever since the children sailed off.

Humphreys says she finds that people are not interested. "They didn't help, and they didn't want to know," she says. "You see, these children left our shores, and it was almost as if they left our consciousness. They'd gone.""

Who in the British government knew the children were being shipped to Australia? David Hinchcliffe, a member of Parliament and the leader of a British government inquiry into the scheme, believes that many high-level officials - including the prime minister, the archbishops, possibly even the queen - probably knew about the scheme.

So if the prime minister knew, and Parliament knew, and if the queen knew, one would've expected something resembling an official apology to the thousands of abandoned children. But in fact, no one in Downing Street, or in thHouse of Commons or for that matter at Buckingham Palace has apologized.

The best the British could come up with after 50 years was to acknowledge in 2000 that the scheme was misguided. It also set up a travel fund for the children to return home for family reunions.

But as of yet, no money has been made available. That's why 60 Minutes II paid Mary Molloy's airfare so she could be united with her mother in Ireland.

Their meeting was deeply emotional. As they met, Fitzgerald was overwhelmed: "Oh God. Oh God. I never forget you. Never. I always knew some day you'd come back. I don't want ever to let you go now….You're just the same as I thought you'd be. I'd know you if I met you in the street. I'd know you were mine."

Around the age of 50 many lose our parents and become orphans. In Molloy's case, that natural order was reversed. And she will stay in her mother's arms happily for a while, until she contemplates what could have been, the enormity of what was taken away.

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Wednesday 10 February 2010


Dear Diary,

She came with her cushion
to the cliffs. She sat
strained in the wind
in a pink old-fashioned hat.

Alice Oswald

What have you found today?

So far I have found sunshine even though it is still very cold outside and there is such a cruel and biting wind but I have tasted the sweetness that is warm friendship which is a blessing in itself. I even found it in the early hours when I logged on to Purplecoo - there are usually folk around to chat to on there when one is suffering from insomnia. Some members are from across the globe and I had a wee chat with a few online friends and even learned that New York was snow-covered and also heard some nice soothing music which was just what I needed.

Who was the writer who said friends are the jewels I keep inside my head? I heard these lines on the radio recently, it may have been on Poetry Please on dear old Radio 4. That radio station is like a true friend don’t you think? I can’t imagine life without it. As someone said to me recently they could live with out TV but they couldn’t cope without the radio. I agreed. Then this morning I heard by email from another dear friend and also from my sister and then I spoke to my daughter on the phone. Small things make such a difference.

But there is another find and it still only mid-morning! I am so pleased to have found this new poem. I borrowed the book from the library because I always check out all their new poetry acquisitions and I pounced on this one as Alice Oswald is one of my favourite poets. It is a beautiful book.

Weeds and Wild Flowers
Poems by Alice Oswald
Etchings by Jessica Greenman.

Thrift is one of my much-loved plants, I love its shade of dusky pink and its air of sweet delicacy but also admire its toughness and persistence; its habit of flourishing in the most dry and unpromising situations.


Born by the sea.
Used to its no-hope moan.
Forty or thereabouts.
Lived on her own.

Heaved a small sigh.
With a handful of stone
to get started,
she saved up for the rain.

She came with her cushion
to the cliffs. She sat
strained in the wind
in a pink old-fashioned hat.

No prospect
but the plunge of the beach.
All except nodding,
no speech.

But she worked she worked
to the factory rhythm
of the sea’s boredom.
Its bouts of atheism.

And by the weekend
set up a stall
of paper flowers.
And sold them all.

So she made substance out of
lack of substance.
Hard of hearing,
She thrived on silence.

Alice Oswald

Do you ever read a poem or a piece of prose and the words strike such a cord that you think Oh I wish I had written that, do you ever feel that those words were within you somewhere and that someone else has somehow resurrected them? Could it be linked to the idea of there being a Universal Consciousness? I think it might. Do you even understand what I am trying to say, probably not as I am not explaining myself very well.

I am only half way through the book so there are sure to be more gems within it; the etchings are pretty too, I am fan of etchings.

That’s all so far, I shall return to you if more bounty is uncovered as the day passes.

I hope you find some pieces of treasure today, do let me know if you do.

Take care,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Sunday 7 February 2010

The F-Word

Dear Diary

Mind is the master power that moulds and makes,

And we are Mind, and evermore we take
The tool of thought, and shaping what we will,
Bring forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills,
We think in secret, and it comes to pass -
Our world is but our looking glass.

James Allen

Flip It.

I read a bit about this book in Amazon’s Bestsellers recently.

I read about it; haven’t actually even seen it and we don’t have it in the library but I like the ideas contained within it. The F word has been running in my brain since I discovered it. No not that F word even though I have had cause to use that one this weekend but am unable to blog about it here. I can’t blog about it but I have thought about it and maybe this book’s philosophy has reminded me of what I believe anyway and it has spurred me on in a direction that perhaps I should have taken long ago.

But hey ho, I can’t help but be happy today, it is a Sunday and there is something about this day that always puts me in a happy frame. Even if it’s a bit damp and cloudy and not very warm, the snowdrops are out and Spring can’t be too far away. There are buds-a-plenty in the garden, the daffodils are rising, the snow has gone and the birds are at ease once again.

I digress..

Flipping, now that used to be a teeny bit of a swear word in my youth. Probably like feckin it was a more acceptable word to band about than the unspoken F word . Funny how words can carry so much emotion, a good thing though or I wouldn’t love poetry so much.

So it’s all down to turning negatives into positives and how we should and could do that to make life better. Simple when you say it like that but not always easy in practice. But I am thinking of it and making lists helps. Write down all the negatives in your life at the moment and then re-write them (and the script) in a positive light. Ask yourself open ended questions that invite a positive proactive response, it is quite fun when you start. One door closes another one opens, that sort of thing. You may find it nauseating, you may not. But the Greek word crisis means opportunity and that is how I like to see it.

Before I go here is a poem, totally unrelated but I like it. It somehow suit’s a Sunday.

The Superwoman

What will the superwoman be, of whom we sing -
She who is coming over the dim border
Of Far To-morrow, after earth’s disorder
Is tidied up by Time? What will she bring
To make life better on tempestuous earth?
How will her worth
Be greater than her forbears? What new power
Within her being will burst into flower?
She will bring beauty, not the transient dower
Of adolescence which departs with youth -
But beauty based on knowledge of the truth
Of its eternal message and the source
Of all its potent force.
Her outer being by the inner thought
Shall into lasting loveliness be wrought.
She will bring virtue; but it will not be
The pale, white blossom of cold chastity
Which hides a barren heart. She will be human -
Not saint or angel, but the superwoman -
Mother and mate and friend of superman.
She will bring strength to aid the larger Plan,
Wisdom and strength and sweetness all combined,
Drawn from the Cosmic Mind -
Wisdom to act, strength to attain,
And sweetness that finds growth in joy or pain.
She will bring that large virtue, self-control,
And cherish it as her supremest treasure.
Not at the call of sense or for man’s pleasure
Will she invite from space an embryo soul,
To live on earth again in mortal fashion,
Unless love stirs her with divinest passion.
To motherhood she will bring common sense -
That most uncommon virtue. She will give
Love that is more than she-wolf violence
(Which slaughters others that its own may live).
Love that will help each little tendril mind
To grow and climb;
Love that will know the lordliest use of Time
In training human egos to be kind.
She will be formed to guide, but not to lead -
Leaders are ever lonely - and her sphere
Will be that of the comrade and the mate,
Loved, loving, and with insight fine and clear,
Which casts its searchlight on the course of fate,
And to the leaders says, ‘Proceed’ or ‘Wait.’
And best of all, she will bring holy faith
To penetrate the shadowy world of death,
And show the road beyond it, bright and broad,
That leads straight up to God.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Well that’s enough for today, I have a lunch to cook, a log- fire to sit by, a Sunday paper to read and more writing tasks await.

I hope you have a great Sunday!
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Quite by Chance

I have spent a long time this morning just surfing around, seeking for you you a song and a picture and maybe some words, just bits and pieces that might brighten your day.

So it's just a bits and pieces post today.

Cara Dillon won an award at the Folk Awards 2010, I love her voice and own one of her CD's but I couldn't decide on a favourite song of hers to post for you. Then I thought of Paul Brady who I also love and started looking for a song from him. What should I find quite by chance but a song with Paul Brady singing with Cara Dillon and a song that I love so. I hope you enjoy it too, it is a shame that video is a wee bit dark colour-wise... but the voices light it up don't you think?

The Streets of Derry

After the morning there comes an evening
And after the evening another day
And after a false love there comes a true love
I'd have you listen now to what I say

I swear my love is the finest young man
As fair as any the sun shines on
But how to save him, I do not know it
For he has got a sentence to be hung

As he was marching the streets of Derry
I own he marched up right manfully
Being much more like a commanding officer
Than a man to die upon the gallows tree

"What keeps my love so long in coming
Oh what detains her so long from me
Or does she think it a shame or scandal
To see me die upon the gallows tree"

He looked around and he saw her coming
And she was dressed all in woollen fine
The weary steed that my love was riding
It flew more swiftly than the wind

Come down, come down from that cruel gallows
I've got your pardon from the king
And I'll let them see that they dare not hang you
And I'll crown my love with a bunch of green

And here is something visual to complete the mix. I stumbled across this artist while surfing, quite by chance...but then nothing happens just quite by chance does it?

Bolus Head

The Kerryscape


All paintings of County Kerry, my mother's homeland.
Quite by chance Killorglin was the town nearest to her home.

Jay Mulligan is the artist

Ireland has been calling me this week and quite by chance I caught a snippet on the Welsh news last night that the Swansea to Cork ferry is at long last opening up again. I am thrilled because it means I can now be in County Cork quite quickly and painlessly. (I hate flying). All it takes is a not-too-long drive to Swansea, an overnight sleep in a cabin and then I am there, landed in my favourite Irish county.

I am a little late posting this as I had, quite by chance, a visit from my beautiful daughter

and my equally beautiful granddaughter who is one month old now.

I spent a couple of hours cuddling her, what more could I ask?

A perfect afternoon.

The day is not over yet, what may yet be about to happen, quite by chance?

I hope you have had a perfect day too, if not there is always tomorrow.

Look out for happiness, it can come quite by chance.

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,