I'm a twit too

Monday, October 25, 2010


Mum was Christened Kathleen after her mother. This was quite common of unwed mothers who had little choice but to give their "illegitimate" offspring up to the care of the Roman Catholic Church. They were blessed if a married couple would take her for adoption, but it was boys who were most desired (e.g. eager to placate their husbands).

It was the Birmingham Blitz and Nan was doing war-work in a Munitions factory, then she got a job on the Trams as a conductor. She paid for a Catholic foster-family to care for her baby daughter in a rural town called Hednesford, but then Nan had a work accident and she couldn't pay for baby Kathleen to have loving attention anymore. At age 3years Kathleen junior was moved to the Nursery at Father Hudson's complex at Rednal.

The font at the Oratory Roman Catholic Church,
Dudley Rd, Ladywood ("Little Rome")


Apprentice housing for Austin Motors at Longbridge Birmingham
became Nazareth House, Rednal 

Herbert Austin set up his Longbridge plant opposite this building built for the first apprentices for building his cars. Birmingham R.C. Diocese bought it for an Orphanage/Institution for those who needed care and education and religion.

St John's Orphanage, Thurgoona NSW 1952 - My mum Kathleen P Clarke 3rd row down, 4 across.


said Mum.

Mum doesn't re

member anything before she was 9years.


Before the British Parliament even contemplated giving income support for single parents,(unwed mothers) and their children, they were punished by a choice of pressured adoptions or orphanage - unless the parents were willing to pretend they were the parents and avoid the stigma of being "illegitimate".

YOU'D THINK IT WOULD BE A GOOD THING moving children out of a mammoth institution ruled by nuns in medieval habits, in the miserable Midlands to Australia for a promising future, WOULDN'T YOU?
Boat children with the right/white credentials.
Once Mum arrived in Australia, Minister Calwell, Australia's first Immigration Minister in the Chifley Labor Government, signed her off, delegating responsibility to NSW. They in turn trusted the Nuns to carry out their obligations and Duty of Care.

The politician whom journalists called 'Cocky' Calwell, had an  unshakeable belief in Australia's first legislation of 1901 Federation - the "White Australia Policy".
He would never have to be faced with the abuses metered out to the children or make any grand Apology for harms done and their long-term consequences.
The long-term goal was reproducing more Catholics and cleaners and child-care workers, and factory hands.

For being a result of war-time sexual intercourse, Mum was an unfortunate accident, but thanks to the need of the Commonwealth of Australia to have good British breeding stock she was given a one way ticket on a massive cruise ship.
She thought it was a grand holiday from a charity, and would be returning in a couple of weeks.

The kids stepped upon the Ship at Southampton were given Red Coats - new Red Coats by the Charity people.

S.S. Asturius 1950 
Berth No 686 Miss Kathleen Clarke 9yrs
  c/o Dept. Immigration Syd. Ticket No. 261913


Mum's memory begins nine years into her childhood. Nothing before nine...she draws a blank on her British childhood.

Thanks to the work of Margaret Humphrey's and the Child Migrants Trust, Kath sought information about her life story - the institutional manouvres and secrets behind the scenes.

We don't know if Kathleen junior was a 'love child' because her Mother refused to reveal anything about the father even unto Death.
The papers show she was born at Dudley Rd. Hospital as her un-wed mother who was a Scots born care leaver, had been enticed to Birmingham with a job in the Munitions factories and a hostel room in Ladywood.

Kath junior was baptised with her mother's name at the Baroque styled Oratory Church commonly called 'Little Rome'.

Kathleen Senior was sent back to the Raddlebarn Rd. Mother and Baby home belonging to St. Edward's parish at Selly Oak.

Baptised at the R.C. Oratory, Hagley Rd.
Ladywood, Birmingham

Old Convent where unwed mothers had their shame hidden except when they had to walk to Church on Sunday or go to Confession.
Only God would know her future husband, Brian, my father was like his father Albert, born and bred just down the road. When they were lads, he said, he and his mates would go to the top of  Dawlish Rd. and watch the naughty mothers walking from the Nun's Home to the Catholic Church with their babies and tease them! 

Dad wasn't christened Catholic, but he said he felt guilty about his boyish taunts when hearing about her ex-wife's start in life!

The young women were required to breast-feed their babies for 3 months and then adopt them. Brilliant for the baby but must have been traumatic for the mother.

Nan had to go back to war-time work in Ladywood. She was able to pay for a foster mother in the rural mining town of Hednesford for 3 years until a work accident meant she had to place her daughter in an orphanage. 

I believe Mum's resilience came with 3 months of breast milk, 
and first three years with a caring foster family.

God had cursed Mother Eve for generations: Genesis 3:16

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

Over the years we have learned parents who had children with disabilities were told it was best for them to put their child in an Institution and forget about them too, but none did.LINK TO..http://www.childmigrantstrust.com/our-work/child-migration-history

The Child Migration Scheme is now universally recognised as having been fundamentally flawed with tragic consequences. (1.25 Senate Report 2001)

2.5 One definition of 'child migration' refers to the term broadly as the dispatch of poor, abandoned, often illegitimate youth from orphanages, institutions and workhouses throughout the United Kingdom to overseas British colonies - later Dominions.

15/3/1950 Border Mail - Albury Railway Station, NSW.
Kathleen Clarke(second of second row), didn't know she had a Mother still living. Or that she was named after her - or that before Christmas, on December 21st her mother had walked down Monument Rd, close to where she lived with her husband of two months, entered the Ladywood Police Station to give her consent in sending her daughter to Australia as a Child Migrant. 
The form claims to have been witnessed by Police Sergeant Hook, but there is no signature. 

Britain had been sending it's unwanted children overseas since the seventeenth century in batches to fill up the colonies with white British stock (so they didn't have to spend any more money on the ragamuffins).

The Past is not dead. It is not even past.

Nobody was expecting the child migrants would ever be able or want to return to their country of birth...a new school was built as St. John's for the Thurgoona community. The 3 R's was good enough for kids whose job was to be cleaners and factory hands, but did not encourage aspirations for more.

The kids scraped and recycled old bricks for building the school, then sent away to farms at 12yrs as Domestic labourers. The Nuns took the money.

Mum creates a smart impression age 19 to go back to the Mother country.
She will return in 1978 with her 3 adolescent children......

Finding Margaret Coyne, a former child migrant in Albury 1995. She shared the same cabin with Mum coming out to Australia! The red and black colour code coincidental! She confirms that all the torturous stories mum told me of her time in NSW were true, and worse. See Pages

I have come to see The Boomerang as the emblem of my mother's journey's between England and Australia. 

The former Child Migrant returned to the Mother Country after she found a pile of letters in Sister Rita's office whilst dusting. 
Mum confronted the not so Mother Superior and the 'shit hit the fan' . They had kept the fact of her mother who was alive and been writing to her!

They had said her mother was dead. 

No longer the Charge of the Nuns and New South Wales government she went to meet her mum and step-dad, and baby half-sister, on a highly expectant cruise home, which her step-father had to pay for!

Of course it wouldn't turn out as expected for mother and daughter, living together for the first time in Hubert Rd. Selly Oak (around the corner from the (unwed)Mother and Baby home).....
Hubert Rd. Selly Oak home of Kath's mum, Kath

Kathleen junior felt she had been brought over to be babysitter and house-help so her mother could go to work!

For some reason Kathleen senior thought her daughter should do as was asked of her! 
My Mother was free from Mother Superior, was determined to be independent. She took her sister out in the pram and got herself a job at Woolworths down the Village.
Her first winter meant freezing and fainting with hyperthermia at work! 
It was even colder than milking the cows with bare-feet at 5am every morning!
Cadbury Bournville Chocolate factory. Perhaps
George Cadbury was Willy Wonka!

Selly Oak  was a hive of industry in those years - Mum said she could leave one job in the morning and get another job in the afternoon. The big break came when Cadbury's gave her full-time work. 

The workers at Bournville had free health, dental care
and recreation services thanks to the philosopy of the Cadbury brothers. Within a day the housing for workers department had found Kath a place to lodge with a really nice land-lady.
The social club was very active and for the first time in her life she was having the life any young woman would desire - fun and freedom and finding attraction to a young man! 

Kath - the third return to England.

References: Lost Children of the Empire
                           Philip Bean&Joy Melvill (UnwinHyman1989)

                          Empty Cradles, Margaret Humphreys
                          (Corgi Books 1995)
Forgotten Australians - Australian Senate Report
                          August 2004 : p.151 Perspective from children
                          Lost Innocents-Righting the Record -
                          Report on Child Migration Aug 2001
2014 Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse in Australian Institutions 

(C)all rights reserved
Julie McNeill


  1. Appalling! (And very well written. I'm eager for more.)

  2. Came here after a comment upon my own blog where I had written about the forgotten ten thousand!

    So many stories, so much pain, and as I discovered after contacting my own M.P., a total of less than 300 made the return journey to an England which had literally shipped them away!


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