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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Empty Cradles (aka Oranges and Sunshine)


I am reading Empty Cradles!

" Margaret Humphreys with her book "Empty Cradles" bravely took on the plight of the Lost Children, those poor souls shipped from the overcrowded orphanages of Britain to all parts of the then British Empire. My own destination was Australia.
Margaret, undaunted by possible repercussions from the collusion of the governments involved, tells our story with heartbreaking compassion. Thanks to her tremendous efforts, some of us now will meet family we never knew we had.
For all who are concerned with humanity, with simple human dignity, this book should not be omitted from your reading list."

I've hardly been able to put this down since I started reading it and I'm reading it with a tear in my eye - such an emotional saga that it is. I was brought up to believe that the migrant children from the UK were war orphans who came out here with the assistance of children's charities to find new homes in Australia.

I did not realise that the UK had been snatching children from impoverished families and orphanages and 'exporting' them to colonies like Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand since the 1880's!

It cost £12 a year to keep a child in an orphanage in the UK! For a ‘one-off’ cost of £18 to send them overseas to one of the colonies the problem was solved!

Told they were 'orphans', denied their family roots even though many of their families were still alive, many of them were shoved into cruel institutions and used as child labour - physically and sexually abused - and the real pity is that this continued right up until the mid 1960's. It was only when Margaret Humphreys, a Nottingham social worker, was requested by one child to see if she could trace her family that the dam burst and the floodgates of decades of systematic abuse were exposed.


I read this book when it seemed like everything was going wrong in my world. 
Julianne  |  10 reviewers made a similar statement
This is one of the most emotional books I have everread. 
Jaqi  |  3 reviewers made a similar statement
No white colony of the British Empire gets away unscathed! A tragic event that is a blot on British and colonial social history.

8 comments:

The Elephant's Child said...

It is very telling the damage that is done to people when a dollar value is assigned to them. My heart goes out to those who were treated so badly both in the UK, wherevchildren were stolen from families who were poor, and in the colonies where it seems that many of the children were ritually abused. The stuff of nightmares.

Susan Heather said...

I just checked our local library and have put a request in for the book. Thanks!!

JohnD said...

When she first came across the plight of the 'migrant children' she thought it was a mistake and refused to believe what she was facing could be true. A victim told her she was 'arrogant' and to look to the records. During the course of her investigations the grief she wore nearly ruined her - a breakdown was looming as she internalised all the guilt of her nation.

If the book "The empty cradles" 'grabs you' then you will watch the film "Oranges and Sunshine" in a sense of utter disbelief that this could have happened!

AstridsSoapbox said...

I read Empty Cradles last year and watched the movie Oranges & Sunshine just last week (the first time it was available in the US on DVD). I said it then and I'll say it now...the countries concerned should be ashamed, but the disgusting, horrific abuse perpetrated on those small children by the Christian Brothers in W.A. and I'm sure in other countries, for that I hope they burn in hell.

JohnD said...

The Christian Brothers (Australia) were still protesting their innocence and claiming that the whole thing had been blown out of proportion when their Orer in Canada paid out $18m in compensation to victims of systematic abuse in institutions throughout Canada.

In fact, in Australia, the Christian Brothers appointed one of their own as an 'independent trouble shooter' to re-write the history of the order in Australia in what was obviously an attempt to deflect criticism away from the behaviour of some of its members!

Gill - That British Woman said...

this is a book I would enjoy to read. Made a note and will order it from our library as well.

Thanks for the info as well regarding my question on my blog.

Gill in Canada

JohnD said...

Gill, its a powerful and emotionally charged book and no doubt you will go through a range of emotions reading it.

Hope the advice regarding the pottery mark was helpful.

regards, John

Gill - That British Woman said...

ordered the book, so hopefully it should be here next week.

Gill