articles/lectures, Child Migrants, photos

Recruited from Nazareth House, UK

by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 12 July, 2011

Read the Catholic ‘Record’ newspaper’s report of the arrival of young Oliver Cosgrove, one of 65 children on board the SS ‘New Australia’ in 1953.

Oliver, aged four, and pictured on the right in the image below, was recruited from Nazareth House, London for the voyage. The ‘New Australia’ arrived on 22nd February 1953.

The report below is from the Perth Catholic newspaper, The Record, Thursday 26 February, 1953.

The photographs below were taken of the 1952 Christmas party at Nazareth House Hammersmith, London. One month later, some of these children boarded the ‘New Australia’.

A child migrant saw the photos on the noticeboard, removed them and brought them with her to Australia.

Child Migrants, memories

The orphan who unorphaned himself

by Patrick O’Flaherty (guest author) on 1 July, 2011

Patrick O’Flaherty arrived in  Australia in 1947 thinking he was a war orphan and not knowing that his mother was alive in England. Read Patrick’s contribution to ‘Where’s the fair go? The decline of equity in Australia’, for more on his life in Australia, his shaky reunion with his mother and reconnecting with his family in Wales and Ireland.

Patrick was eight when he arrived on the SS Asturias.

Download Patrick’s ‘The orphan who unorphaned himself’ (PDF 262kb) from Where’s the Fair Go? The Decline of Equity in Australia, edited by Ian Rae and published by Delegate Productions Books in 2003.

Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, objects, photos

Clontarf strap #2

by Adele Chynoweth on 8 June, 2011

An X-ray scan of a leather strap made by Bill Brennan, who grew up in Clontarf Boys’ Town, WA, shows internal metal reinforcements inserted to give the strap more strength.

Bill made this strap when aged in his 50s as a copy of the the same straps he was required to make, at the age of 12, for the Christian Brothers. The X-ray image shows the metal reinforcements included to give the strap more strength when used to hit children.

Child Migrants, documents

Child slave labour

by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 17 May, 2011

Oliver Cosgrove writes in response to personal histories about child slave labour in children’s homes. He refers to a photograph on this website (below) of children building the swimming pool at Clontarf Boys’ Town. Oliver notes that such work contravened the International Labour Organisation Convention.

In relation to slave child labour in children’s homes, Oliver Cosgrove writes:

 It is salient to note the International Labour Organisation Convention C5 of 1919. In essence it requires that children under the age of 14 not be used on industrial undertakings.

ILO Convention 33 refers to the minimum age of working children in non-industrial employment, and notes that children under the age of 14 who are still required to be at school shall not be employed unless otherwise provided for in the convention. The main such provision was that of Article 3 which allowed the use of children over the age of 12 for work outside of fixed school hours provided that the work was light.

This means that the time available for children to do so-called ‘light work’ in the institutions was one hour and 35 minutes on a school day and two hours on a non-school day.

In respect of the photograph of the children doing excavation of the swimming pool it is patent that:

  • some children are under the age of 12
  • they are bare-footed
  • they are doing excavation work, and the fact that some groups of boys are carrying bags of sand indicates that the workload is heavy.

An article in the West Australian newspaper, 19 March, 1958, indicates that the swimming pool was built within three months. Work  ‘… began soon after Christmas Day, and the first swimmers plunged into the water on Monday [17 May 1958]. The capacity of the pool was said by Brother Doyle to have been 150,000 gallons.’ An internet website converted 150,000 UK gallons to 681.913 m3.

The average maximum temperature in Perth for January is 30.6°C; for February 31.3°C and for March 29.2°C.

The State Records Office holds the Clontarf Swimming Pool file and contains a letter dated September 3, 1957 from Brother Maloney of Clontarf who stated that:

‘under the supervision of our Manager, Rev Brother Doyle, we hope to build with the aid of twenty senior boys a swimming pool… We would greatly appreciate the guidance of your Dept. and any little help you would permit.’

The Director of Works wrote back and in paragraph 7 he stated:

‘I was informed that some £3000 to £4000 is available for this project and also that all the materials for the concrete, except the cement, will be a free gift. This amount of money should be ample to construct the pool as all the labour will be free.’

Below is the relevant excerpt from the International Labour Convention 33:

C5 Minimum Age (Industry) Convention, 1919

Article 1

1. For the purpose of this Convention, the term industrial undertaking includes particularly–

(a) mines, quarries and other works for the extraction of minerals from the earth;

(b) industries in which articles are manufactured, altered, cleaned, repaired, ornamented, finished, adapted for sale, broken up or demolished, or in which materials are transformed; including shipbuilding, and the generation, transformation, and transmission of electricity and motive power of any kind;

(c) construction, reconstruction, maintenance, repair, alteration, or demolition of any building, railway, tramway, harbour, dock, pier, canal, inland waterway, road, tunnel, bridge, viaduct, sewer, drain, well, telegraphic or telephonic installation, electrical undertaking, gas work, water work, or other work of construction, as well as the preparation for or laying the foundations of any such work or structure;

(d) transport of passengers or goods by road or rail or inland waterway, including the handling of goods at docks, quays, wharves, and warehouses, but excluding transport by hand.

2. The competent authority in each country shall define the line of division which separates industry from commerce and agriculture.

Article 2

Children under the age of fourteen years shall not be employed or work in any public or private industrial undertaking, or in any branch thereof, other than an undertaking in which only members of the same family are employed.

Article 3

The provisions of Article 2 shall not apply to work done by children in technical schools, provided that such work is approved and supervised by public authority.

Child labour site, Clontarf Boys Town, c. 1956
Child labour site, Clontarf Boys Town, c. 1956

articles/lectures, Child Migrants, documents, Responding to the National Apology

Orphaning experiences #2

by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 27 April, 2011

In a recent post on this website, Godfrey Gilmour, writes about his experience as a former Child Migrant. He remembers Father Cyril Stinson visiting his school in Malta in order to recruit boys to migrate to Australia. Oliver Cosgrove kindly contacted the National Museum with information about Father Stinson.

Father Cyril Stinson was the Director of the Catholic Episcopal Migration and Welfare Association Inc of Western Australia, an association that comprised the Archbishop of Perth, the Bishop of Geraldton, the Abbot of New Norcia, and the Vicar Apostolic of the Kimberleys. He was also, in 1952, the Australian representative in UK of the Federal Catholic Immigration Committee. Both of these organs worked to bring Catholics to Australia (including children).

A summary of one of Father Stinson’s radio braodcasts was published in the Times of Malta, 15 October, 1952.

Child Migrants, memories, photos

Orphaning experiences

by Godfrey Gilmour (guest author) on 13 April, 2011

“I may not have been an orphan in the real sense of the word, and my experience at Clontarf as a state ward, however, was full of orphaning experiences”. Godfrey Gilmour, a retired Anglican priest, noticed himself as a child in a photograph, published on this website, taken by Mick O’Donoghue at Clontarf Boys Town in the 1950s. Here, he shares his experiences as a child migrant from a loving family in Malta to the harsh conditions at Clontarf:

I was born in Malta in 1944 in wartime. My mother was Mary Tonna and my father Geoffrey was an English soldier recently transferred to Malta from the North Africa campaign. My parents met sometime in late 1942 or early 1944. It was a wartime love affair and did not come to light til my mother became pregnant and her parents became involved. It was then discovered that Geoffrey was married and that despite my grandfather’s attempt to sort something out, it came to no avail. The army then intervened and sent Geoffrey away to the Italian campaign. My mother never heard from him again and her registered letters to him containing photographs of me went unanswered.

After the war, I lived with my mother and grandparents. It was a comfortable and culturally enriching life. I was close to my grandparents and extended family and I still have very happy memories of that period of time.

At the age of seven I was placed in St Patrick’s School in Sliema which was a boarding school where I experienced abuse for the first time, my family was unaware of this, and  I felt unable to tell them about the events at St Patrick’s for I was fearful of the repercussions that might ensue. I was eager to leave the place and always longed to see my father.  Some time in 1952 Father Cyril Stinson came to the school in Malta from Western Australia to recruit boys to migrate to Australia. I always remember that he had a florid face and smelt of whiskey. Along with other boys I was told how wonderful Australia was, and the wonderful school we would be going to. My mother along with other parents was also told similar things and also thought this would be a good thing especially as she was also advised that she could also follow me to Australia. In my child’s mind, I thought that somehow, I would be closer to England and that I might see my father. I had no idea Australia was on the other side of the world.

In July 12th 1953 I migrated to Australia. When I arrived at Clontarf, I immediately felt that this was a dark place. And it proved to be so almost from day one. It felt as though I had landed like on the dark side of the moon. I didn’t fit in at Clontarf; I had come from a cultured family in Malta. My mother had a wonderful singing voice. I always had plenty of reading matter, at night, in Malta; she would sing me to sleep with operatic arias that she had learnt. But at Clontarf, I experienced a great deal of deprivation especially in the early years. I was to experience emotional, physical and sexual abuse almost the very first days. There was a predatory culture at work at Clontarf and at Castledare; young boys were preyed upon by particular staff and also older boys. My first nights in one of those large cold dormitories were miserable and I recall crying myself to sleep wondering when my mother was going to arrive and take me away.

From the first days I witnessed and then personally experienced the harsh discipline and the use of the infamous straps made of several layers of leather and reinforced with metal to make them weightier and more painful. The staff carried these up the sleeves of their cassocks and used them with terrible efficiency. In the absence of their straps staff resorted to sticks, canes and fists even on very young  boys and those who were maimed through accidents. The attitude of some staff was sadistic.

There was also this process of depersonalisation at work at Clontarf and a loss of identity. I soon became a number. My Christian name was never used, only my number and surname. My personal belongings were soon taken away from me, my books were burnt, and my mail home was censored. We were forbidden to speak Maltese.  Being bi-lingual I was at times told to translate letters from Malta to Maltese boys for the principal in case information about Clontarf was getting back to Malta. There was a lack of respect for the individual, the well-being of the institution mattered more.

The food was so awful after the Mediterranean diet I was used to; hunger was a constant reality, and boys resorted to raiding the pig bins for food. The enforced nudity, the lack of privacy [even the toilets lacked doors], the constant hard work that we had to engage in, often in dangerous conditions, made inroads into our health and well-being also affected of academic performance. Many boys failed academically and were put to work at an early age and were functionally illiterate on leaving Clontarf.

My mother came out to Australia in October 1954. Catholic welfare found her work at a Catholic presbytery in Fremantle. In early 1955 my mother found employment at Castledare, the junior orphanage that fed into Clontarf. She became uncomfortable with the violence that she saw. On raising this with one of the brothers, he said, “I didn’t want to be here. My parents forced me to become a Christian Brother”.
My mother was asked to leave Castledare and moved to Perth and worked there. In 1957 my mother married Jack Gilmour. He immediately wanted to adopt me legally and immediately ran into obfuscation both by the authorities and also the staff at Clontarf. People did not readily question authority in those days. Unbeknown to them, I was legally a state ward. My step father then took steps to change my name by deed poll. This was done much to the chagrin of Brother Doyle, the principal, who in an interview with my parents at which I was also present raised objections. My parents insisted that I should now be known as Godfrey Gilmour. Already out of favour with Brother Doyle this latest issue made life difficult, ever more difficult for me.

My final year at Clontarf was spent in Br Doyle’s class. It was a devastating year for me. I was brutalised and humiliated by this man all year. I was at times hit over the head by this man and had my spectacles broken after being hit across the face. He took a dislike to my accent and constantly drew attention to what he described as my ‘plummy accent’ and humiliated me in front of my peers. I became an anxious boy, I developed a speech impediment, had sleep problems and even experienced bouts of enuresis, [bed wetting] something I had never experienced in my life. At the end of the school year I was simply told to leave and not come back. I virtually left in the clothes I was standing in. I was still a ward of the state and yet my parents received no support whatever for my transition to life outside the orphanage. After several years my mother received a letter from the Child Welfare Department in Perth, advising my mother that she could now adopt me.

Such was my experience in care in Western Australia, I may not have been an orphan in the real sense of the word, and my experience at Clontarf as a state ward however was full of orphaning experiences. Putting the past behind me I forged a career in education, family welfare and ministry.

PS: I was to meet my father in the UK, shortly before he died we were reconciled. I also met 9 siblings and large family. My mother did not live to see that day. She died in Malta.

Child Migrants, documents, Forgotten Australians

Report fails Christian Brothers

by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 23 March, 2011

Below is a copy of the report on the visit, in July 1948, to Castledare Junior Orphanage, WA, by the Secretary of the Child Welfare Department, State Migration Officer and two inspectors also from the Child Welfare Department.

Oliver Cosgrove kindly made this report available to the National Museum. He notes:

Castledare was the junior orphanage in the so-called ‘quadrangular scheme’ of the Christian Brothers.

It is singularly worth noting that this report was issued in July 1948, less than 10 months after the first post-war child migrants arrived on the SS Asturias.
I cannot but wonder at the perspicacity of the writer’s last sentence.

Consider the following observations in the report:

dingy sleeping cubicles
floors stained under beds by urine
salty crusts of dried urine under beds
wire mattresses rusted by urine
torn mattresses

sagging beds and mattresses
cramped dormitories
miserably thin mattresses (ex US forces) and totally inadequate
pyjamas grubby, dirty, and damp with urine

good sized wardrobe lockers – an asset to the institution – but not used

hot-water system not working in shower

overcrowded schoolrooms,
insufficient ventilation

recreation hall only place that could provide warmth

Download a copy of the Castledare Report (PDF 152kb)

Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, memories, photos

Built by the boys

by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 7 February, 2011

This photograph kindly forwarded to the National Museum by Oliver Cosgrove shows the interior of the chapel at the former Clontarf Boys Town, now Clontarf Aboriginal College.

Interior of a church empty but for one man

The interior bricks were rendered, the exterior stuccoed, and the roof timbers constructed from jarrah and karri. The parquetry floor was made from she-oak and jarrah, all securely laid in bitumen on a concrete base. The chapel was consecrated in 1941 by the Archbishop of Perth. The chapel was built in one year by the child residents at Clontarf.

Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, memories, objects

Clontarf strap

by Adele on 14 December, 2010

This leather strap was made by William ‘Bill’ Brennan when he was aged in his 50s as a copy of the ones he made as a boy in the leather workshop of Clontarf Christian Brothers Home. Bill made the strap as a ‘witness’ to his experience in the Homes and gave it to Bruce Blyth, who was an early researcher of the history and advocate for former inmates of the Western Australian Christian Brothers Homes.

Leather strap

 

Bill Brennan, along with his brother Anthony, spent most of his childhood in the Christian Brothers Homes. He was in Clontarf from 1945 to 1952. Unlike most of the other inmates, these boys were not former Child Migrants but local Australians. His parents suffered mental illness and were unable to care for their children.

At the age of about 12, Bill’s schooling finished and he was set to work in the leather workshop of Clontarf. One day one of the Brothers asked to make him a strap. He had detailed instructions for it, including that it should contain a section of band saw and a lead pellet. Other orders followed, each with their own instructions. Bill remembers having made about 20 straps, of which 12 were accepted. Bill then had to watch his fellows being beaten with the straps he had made.

The task ended when a lay staff member arrived at Clontarf and was appalled that a boy should be required to make these items.