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Friday, 18 March 2016
Empty Cradles by Margaret Humphreys
Reviewer: Liza Perrat, author of Spirit of Lost Angels, Wolfsangel and Blood Rose Angel
What we thought: The author of this shocking non-fiction tale, Margaret Humphreys, was originally a Nottingham social worker who, in 1986, began investigating the claim of a woman who stated she’d been transported to Australia on a boat, unaccompanied, at the age of four years old.
She gradually discovered, to her horror, and the horror of the British and Australian public in general, that as many as 150,000 children had been sent (without parent or guardian) from British children’s homes, starting in the 1920s, to a “new life” in Canada, Australia, Rhodesia or New Zealand. And that this had continued well into the 1960s.
She also discovered that many of these children were sent to remote farms run by religious organizations, and that this “new life” was, sadly and shockingly, filled with neglect and abuse, the children often working as slaves.
Once these children reached adulthood, they were turfed out into society to find their way as best they could, with no idea of who they were and where they’d come from. Or why.
For the charities, the child migrant scheme was apparently a solution to the overflowing British orphanages and the fact that the colonies were in need of a cheap labour force.
At great cost to herself, both financial and emotional, Margaret Humphreys made it her mission to try and reunite some of these child migrants with their families.
Empty Cradles is a well-written, heart-wrenching, tragic, but ultimately uplifting, story about the child migrant scandal from the UK to Australia post WWII, and I would highly recommend it to readers interested in such shocking social issues as this.
You’ll enjoy this if you like: true stories about bureaucratic scandal and cover-ups.
Avoid if you dislike: tragic accounts of neglected and abused children.
Ideal accompaniments: a comfortable chair as this is a real page-turner.
Available from Amazon