Forgotten Australians, memories, photos

St Vincent’s Westmead #2

by Graham Evans (guest author) on 23 September, 2011

Graham Evans shares a photograph of the St Vincent’s choir in 1962. Graham is standing at the far left of the front row. Graham’s role in the choir was lead singer (ensuring that all the boys stayed in tune) and drummer.

Photograph of boys in uniform with band in the foreground

Forgotten Australians, poetry

‘Those Long Lost Years’

Graham Evans, who was sent to st Vincent’s Boys Home, Westmead in 1962, has been contributing to this website since it began. Read Graham’s latest song lyrics.

Those Long Lost Years

If I could take you back to times when we were young
All these stories of abuse you hear, have not just begun
It’s been our life time, and no one can really see
Except the abused and my friends, what’s left to be

We’ll we fight for justice, and our equal rights
Because we’re fully pledged ‘Forgotten Australians’ both day and night
And we’re so tired of lying down with these silent tears
But! what do you expect, after all ‘Those Long Lost Years’

It’s been our life time, and no one want’s to see
Not the Churches, the Government’s themselves, nor Society
Well we’re so tired of lying down with these silent tears
But what do you expect after all ‘Those Long Lost Years’

Yah! It’s been our life time, and no one want’s to see
Not the Churches, the Governments themselves, nor Society
Well! we’re not going to lye down no more, we’re going to stand and fight for our cause
But what! do you expect, after all ‘Those Long Lost Years’
And what do you expect, after all ‘Those Long Lost Years’.

Forgotten Australians, memories

Eulogy of Christiana Imelda Ramsey

by Leicester Ramsey (guest author) on 24 June, 2011

‘Christiana, in our eyes you were a success’, said Leicester about his mother at her funeral. Leicester’s eulogy is an account of his history and a tribute to Christiana. It also offers insights into how children were institutionalised in Australia.

Eulogy of Christiana Imelda Ramsey

Christiana Imelda Ramsey was born on 26th December, 1925 in St. Murdock’s Terrace, Ballina, County Mayo, Eire. She grew up in Limerick. Her parents were, Tom Daly and Mary Daly nee Hayes. Christiana’s parents eloped when her mother Mary was only 16 years old and they were married in England in 1920. Her grandfather, Pat Hayes, never forgave his favourite daughter, Mary and never spoke to Mary or her children for the rest of his life. He never forgave them for eloping, even when Christina’s mother Mary was ill in bed for nine years dying at the age of only 43.

Christiana always loved her mother and missed her for the rest of her life. She would often recall many fond memories of her time with her mother.

Christiana would recall visiting her grandfather’s farm at Palace Green for holidays between the ages of 4 to 8. She had been told she was not to talk to her grandfather, or even wave to him when he was watching from the window.

Christiana was one of 10 children: 6 girls 4 boys. Her father, Tom Daly, a mechanic by trade, was one of the founders of the original IRA. He was a TD, which is a member of the Republic of Ireland Parliament. He was also involved in the 1930-31 riots in Ireland. He drove the first bus in Dublin and also raced cars.

Christiana met many famous people in her life, including de Valera at the age of 5 and Michael Collins.

Christiana was proud to tell all those who would listen, how she sang in the St Johns Cathedral choir, Limerick at the ordination of a bishop.

At the age of 15 Christiana left home to start work doing cleaning jobs and errands for well to do families. After several years, she decided it was time to look for husband. She advertised in the paper and received many offers. These included a jockey.  She decided to meet a Mr Harold Franklin Ramsey, a wealthy self made man who was looking for a house keeper, not a wife. On meeting him she accepted a job with him and over time they fell in love, a love that was to last the rest of her life. Even though there was a 33 year age difference between them. Sadly, he died when Christiana was in the prime of her life. She never remarried nor had a partner, because of her love for Mr Ramsey.

They were married twice, once in 1946 Royal Court England and in 1951 on Jersey in the Channel Islands.

Christiana and Mr  Ramsey, as she often called him, travelled the world. They lived in Ireland, France, Switzerland, Ceylon, Jamaica and Jersey. They had 6 children and were internationalists before it was common. Their children were born in various countries, Anthony in Switzerland, Alan on Jersey, Michael and Chester back in Ireland and finally, Leicester and Malcolm in Australia.

After living and running a business on Jersey for 5 years, Mr Ramsey, who had been told stories about Australia by his friend the BBC war time correspondent Chester Wilmot decided to emigrate. Mr Wilmot was the author of the book ‘Struggle for Europe’. They decided Australia was the place of the future. So they set of from Jersey in 1949 motoring through France, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Syria, Israel, the Holy Land, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and India. In India they visited, amongst other sites, the Taj Mahal. Christiana always said that it was one of the most beautiful sites she had ever seen. From India they went to Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, where they waited for 6 weeks to catch a boat to Fremantle, Australia. On arriving in Australia, they were greeted by a reporter from the Western Australian newspaper. They were front page news for having been the first to travel by car from England to Australia, arriving in 1954.

They arrived with 4 children, Anthony, Alan, Michael and Chester. Leicester and Malcolm were born later in Australia.

After arriving in Fremantle, they then set off across the Nullabor Plain, which was then just a dirt track, to Victoria. Then they travelled up the east coast to NSW passing through Kiama, to Sydney. Not finding what they wanted, they returned to Kiama to settle. Kiama reminded Christiana of Ireland, with the green hills.

They set about finding land to build a garage and motel which they called the Shamrock Motel. The land was purchased at Ocean View.

Later, Christiana was contacted by her sister Mary.  Mary asked if Mr Ramsey would pay the travel fares to Australia, for Mary, her husband Bill and their children so they could emigrate to Australia. Mr Ramsey and Christiana needed an assistant to run the hotel. So, they agreed, on the condition that Bill would work for Mr Ramsey until the money was paid back. Bill Wilson worked for a few months and never repaid the money owed. In fact, he not only refused to pay the money back, but 6 weeks before Mr Ramsey died, Bill Wilson, then 33 years old, attacked and punched Mr Ramsey, leading to his death soon after.

Christiana at 33 years of age was left widowed to raise 6 boys, the eldest 12 and the youngest 3 months. With no family or friends to provided support and help she was struggling to manage the running of a motel and garage. She was also struggling emotionally from her loss. Eventually, she suffered a mental break down and neglected to get all the children to school.

The authorities, concerned with the lack of attendance at school, called the police. The family property was raided, the front door was kicked in and the family dog was shot. The children were forcefully removed from Christiana. The children were then placed in the Bernardo homes at Kiama. Mary was not happy to have the children brought up in the Protestant faith of their father. Also, Mary was concerned about the environment of hate that existed between the Catholics and the Protestants in 1960s. She contacted Father Phibbs, then head of the Catholic child welfare bureau. Fr Phibbs made an application through the courts to become the guardian of the children until each one turned 16 years of age. He also had power of attorney over an estate worth in excess of 100,000 pounds. In today’s terms that would have amounted to millions of dollars. To this day, this money has never to be accounted for.

The children were then placed in St Joseph’s, St Michael’s and St Vincent’s Westmead. These unlawful acts were recently recognised when the Federal and State Governments apologised to the FORGOTTEN Generation and these children were invited to the ceremony.

Christiana in the meantime was placed in mental institutions and given shock therapy. After receiving treatment, she found work at the Australia Hotel making beds and  cleaning rooms. Later she got a job with the Catholic nuns at Rose Bay, where she was allowed to have Malcolm, her youngest son, live with her.

In 1966 she managed to rent a property in Jersey Road, Woollahra, for 6 months. This allowed Anthony, Alan, Leicester and Malcolm to live with her again … [she was] … again institutionalised.

After recovering, she again gained employment. She visited her family by walking from Sydney to Westmead. Upon arriving she was told that she had missed visiting hours and she could not see her children. Saddened, she then had to walk all the way back to Sydney.

Over the years she asked many times to be provided with money from the family estate. She wanted the money so she could buy a house and raise her children, all to no avail.

In despair, she wrote to Sir Roden Cutler, the Governor of NSW at the time. She was seeking assistance to get a housing commission house so she could raise her children. After being on a waiting list for 8 years, in December, 1969, through Sir Roden’s help, she got one in Green Valley, bringing her 3 younger children together for Christmas.

As the years rolled on, Christiana lived to see her children and grand children, grow and become successful. Although much of her life was lived in poverty, all she ever wanted to be, was a good wife and mother.

Christiana in our eyes you were a success. You were a wonderful person. You were an inspiration to us all. You were a mother to your children and a grandmother to your grand children.

You achieved your aims beyond your expectations.

You will live on in the hearts of all that knew and loved you, down through many generations.

We love you and will miss you.

God Bless You and keep you in his love.

Forgotten Australians

The betrayal

by Wayne Miller (guest author) on 17 September, 2010

The Betrayal – Born in Innocence Raised in Hell is Wayne Miller’s personal history of his life as a ward of the state, resident in St Vincent de Paul’s Boys Home, South Melbourne and St Augustine’s Boys Home, Highton, Geelong.

Wayne’s history was the basis of his submission to the 2004 Senate Community Affairs Committee’s Inquiry into Children into Institutional Care. Wayne’s testament is Submission no. 15 and may be downloaded from the Senate website.

articles/lectures, Forgotten Australians, memories, objects, photography, photos

Our boys

by Rhonda Trivett (guest author) on 1 September, 2010

Graham Evans, a former resident of St Vincent’s Westmead, recalls that printing the school newspaper was not a rewarding task. The cover of the February 1929 edition is reproduced with kind permission from the State Library of New South Wales.

Westmead Printery, run by “Our Boys” and that’s how the name became “Our Boys’ Magazine” for the School itself, it was like slavery – do or die.
“Our Own Paper” February 1 1929, printed by the residents of St Vincent’s Boys Home, Westmead
Forgotten Australians, memories

The story of the nun I kept meeting on the bus

by Lana Syed (guest author) on 9 July, 2010

Lana was a resident of  St Vincent’s Orphanage, Nudgee, QLD, from the age of six months to 11 years. Here, in an excerpt from the book Lives of Uncommon Children – Reflections of Forgotten Australians (2009, Micah Projects – Queensland), Lana shares her memory of her reunion with one of the nuns who used to care for her at St Vincent’s.

The story of the nun I kept meeting on the bus

About five years ago, I used to go to West End, walk in, and take the bus to the city or from the city to West End. Each and every time I kept bumping into a SRM Mercy nun. First I saw SRM coming on the bus, I would say, “can I help you sister?” (she was loaded up with some packages). She would say, ‘no, thankyou!’ Okay another time in comes this Sister in the bus again and sits close to me, this time says nothing, just a smile. Third time she is loaded again with shopping I ran to help her, she says “thankyou” and sits right in front of me, I said “hello Sister, hang on”.

She says, “I know that voice, I never forget a voice”. She suddenly turns around to me, and pauses for a moment, “I know you. You’re not Lana are you?”

Oh! My god I was shocked, my face went red, I thought, I did something wrong, my mind froze then! How does she know my name? She said, “I know you, she said. “you are my little baby”.

She had never forgotten me – isn’t that just lovely. So she asked me to come over to the Mater Hospital to meet up with her, which I did. I thought I would die back then. Wow – I couldn’t believe my luck! I rang my friend Gloria up, and told her of my encounter, of SRM from Nudgee that used to look after us little tots and babies and little girls. The next thing she says, “Lana, I have got some photos to give to you, it is a picture of you and your twin sister”. My own family did not have a picture of the twin, but SRM did, she said she was cleaning out the photo she’s had, and were destroying them but will keep the two photos of me and my sister Lena – Lana. The rest went in the shredder.

My great Aunty Anne Remanous, was Archdishop Duhig’s personal secretary. She was a lovely great Aunty; though I never got to meet her. I have photos of her, and of the shop at West End in Hardgrave road, the shop called “Saint Veronicas”, which used to belong to her. She also adopted a son, from Papua New Guinea, she paid his way to become a priest, though they never knew I was in the orphanage. It was one of the biggest secrets. My mother never told anyone in the family that we were in there. If Aunty Anne knew, she might have adopted us – being family. Although Aunt Anne was my great Aunty, because my grand mother Renee, Aunty Theresa, Uncle Mick, Aunty Rose were all family and cousins to Aunty Anne.

Being at the centre of Lotus Place: we sit around having a yarn, with like-minded people, and we have a cuppa, and talk about things, like, what we saw on TV…Like last night, about the three dogs (two were dead) because the owner had to go to jail, the  police did not pass the information to the RSPCA. As a result, the dogs had to die, (the third dog) got lucky, he had a fit, then they found a chip in his neck and rang the owners, and found out that the dog was stolen two years ago and was in luck as the RSPCA had rung up the owner. The dog had a lucky happy ending and went home with his owner and some medication to make him better. Wow, what an ending. How it touches my heart.

art, Forgotten Australians, memories, poetry

Gloria’s story

by Gloria Lovely (guest author) on 17 June, 2010

Gloria Lovely was taken to St Vincent’s Orphanage, Nudgee, Queensland, in 1943, when she was 18 months old. She was then sent to a foster family at the age of ten.  Here, in an excerpt from the book Lives of Uncommon Children – Reflections of Forgotten Australians (2009, Micah Projects – Queensland), and her poem A Child’s Despair (2005), Gloria writes about her experience in foster care.

He was murdering me. He was murdering me every day. I didn’t want to wake up of a morning because I knew what I might face. Another day of fear. Have to hurry, do the chores, then off to school – an escape. I’m free of fear there for a while, a positive advantage. School is the best time of day, learning to be smart and a little educated, making me feel good.

I absolutely love to learn, anything and everything, trying to fill my mind with knowledge, and remembering it all. I loved going to school; it was my sanctuary, but then I had to go back to my foster home, my home of fear and dread. And my foster parents. My foster father was a sinful man, using my body for his sexual gratification. No on else knew he was doing it on a weekly basis. It was my hell; he was destroying my spirit, and my foster mother was very cruel, punishing me for not doing the chores right. Like scorching a white shirt, peeling too much skin off the potatoes and onions.

But to the people of the community, they were such wonderful people, because they fostered other children from the orphanage as well, and going to church every Sunday, letting people know they were looking after their foster children. What wonderful people, but behind the scenes, behind closed doors, we foster children were suffering daily. What a charade. We were their slaves, and I was his bedroom slave. I was the housewife in every sense of the word.

Hence my thinking of him killing me – killing every part of my being, my soul, my all. Who can I turn to? No one. Were the other foster children feeling the same as I? Are they living in their own hell? Do they fear them as much as I do? I feel they would like to go back to the orphanage like I would. Oh, please God, help us all. This is the part of my life which I was lucky enough to survive this living hell. It is in the past now, and I thank my lucky stars that it came to an end when it did, and I grew to adulthood.

A Child’s Despair
(From Orphanage to Foster Care)

A girl-child sleeps at night
A stranger, she is not, to fright
She wakes, suddenly,
“Will he come tonight?”
This poor unfortunate, in such a plight.

To these unkind people she was sent,
No one knew, they were so bent.
Her body, he took, by force, times again
“My God, protect me”, once again.

“Our secret”, he says, “do not tell”.
His sick mind, he hid so well
And her (so cruel) she could not tell
That belt, the belting she could foretell.

She screams in her soul, no one can hear
She cannot cry out, she lives in fear.

Her body tells day by day
People do not read that way
“The child is slow,
She was born that way”.

Over the days, months and years
She carried on, despite her fears.

She now has grown to womanhood,
And all she likes to give… good.

Gloria (left) and Juanita with the statue of the orphan child, Brisbane 2010
Forgotten Australians, memories

One-way ticket

by Graham Evans (guest author) on 26 March, 2010

The Journey

Here it is – 1958 – my first experience away from home, the big adventure into the wide-open spaces of life itself.

I was seven years old then; it was a glorious day, early morning sun shining brightly through the side window of my Dad’s old Plymouth, the sounds of birds whistling in the trees, and the sweet scent of wild country flowers.

I sat there pondering; it seemed like ages, wondering where this journey was taking me. We drove on when suddenly I realised something was wrong, then Mum said, “We won’t be long, we will pull over and have a picnic lunch”.

We had our lunch, it was by a stream, such beauty I’ve never seen. I suddenly thought, “Where was Dad?” Mum said, “Don’t worry son, you’re just a lad, and one day when you’re big and strong, I’ll tell you of things that went wrong”.

We sat there having this picnic lunch under a tall chestnut tree, I suddenly looked up and there was Mum, staring at me with tears I’d never seen, such beauty and radiance, just like a queen.

I ran to her side and embraced her tight, when she whispered “Son, it will be all right”. I looked again, and said, “I love you Mum”. She replied, “I hope so, you’re my youngest son”.

I couldn’t stop wondering, “Where was Dad?” It seemed a lifetime and I began to grow sad. So weary my eyes became, I fell asleep.

When I awoke, much to my dismay, we had entered this large school where children played. There were hundreds of them, women in black. My heart told me, I want to go back; to that country town by the dust track, to the place that I loved, to the fields and the trees and most of all to the birds that talked to me.

I stood there so scared and embraced my Mum, when suddenly this woman said, “Come here son, your Mother has to leave on her journey again”. My eyes filled with tears and I started to cry. As she drove off, I heard her say, “I love you son, I’ll be back one day, to take you out in the glorious sun, we’ll have a picnic and have lots of fun”.

As time went by my eyes still filled with tears, here it is now three long years. “I’m never going to see her again”, I said, when Sister Anne called, “It’s time for bed!”

Here is another day, a little schools and lots of play. With the friends that I made, time soon flew by, those tears I cried were deep inside, my heart grew strong, for that place that I loved, the trees, the birds and the stars above, to that country place I once called home, with my Mum and Dad, I was never alone.

As these lonely years rolled over again, I suddenly thought I’m nearly ten, those junior days will soon be gone, to another school, where I had to belong. Four years had gone by, and not once did I see the parents I loved, what was to be.

Sister Anne cried out, “Come have a feed”, then it’s off to the new school they called ‘Westmead”. This school was so different, there was no love, do this, come here, and given a shove, bend over and touch your toes, a whack with a stick or a hit on the nose.

Those Brothers I really started to hate, and they had the audacity to call me ‘mate’.

I never learnt much in all those years, but to stand up for your rights and show no tears.

It was not like the Nuns, I was the teacher’s pet and the love they showed, I soon had to forget. In this school, it was do or die, there was moments I remember I had to cry, to myself you see, that’s the way it had to be.

As time went on I joined the band, to do something to forget, if you could understand. The drums I played to my heart was content, I feel this time was worthwhile spent.

At times I wondered why these Brothers were so cruel, there was something not seen, hidden within this school. A brother of mine was expelled, he stood up for his rights, but didn’t tell, we all punished it was like a living hell.

It went on for years, no one could see, for this brother of mine, they punished me. He did not know, for he’d already gone, away from this place, where no one belonged.

It was 1966, and I loved to run, when all of a sudden this man said, “Son, we’re looking for a child around your size, we’ve been looking for ages, if you can’t realise. His name is Graham, and this is his Mum, if you know him, can you tell son?”

Briefly my heart stopped, much to my dismay. This couldn’t be the woman who put me away. When I turned around she was gone. But I heard her say, she won’t be long. I’ll be away next week, you won’t be alone. I will be back soon, I’m taking you home. Away from this school and their punishing eyes. I’m sorry son I never realised.

I was fourteen when I left and couldn’t look back. The man who spoke to me, his name was Jack. He was to replace the father I never had. I soon became to call him Dad.

As I grew older, we grew apart, but I loved that man with all my heart. He was always there to teach me right, and give me a hug and say goodnight. You know I loved this man called ‘Jack’.

I soon forgot that dusty track, the fields and the tress, and most of all, the birds that talked to me, and the scented breeze.

I went to a new school at Lithgow High, got into some fights, but didn’t cry. They said I was new in town, for this they tried to put me down.

They called me names, but they did not know the troubles I’ve seen down below. I got back up and stood my ground, they tried no more to push me around.

I’m almost twenty-one now and out of play. I got a new job to pay my way. I stayed at Woolies for a couple of years, ‘til I met a girl, who brought me tears.

We all make mistakes, it happened to me. We had a baby and named her Sherie. This woman I love, but it wasn’t to be, a crucial mistake, what is happening to me.

I stayed in touch because I loved the girl, she didn’t want to go out into the great big world. She stayed with her Mum, something I never had, if I took her away, she would only be sad.

So off I went again, to sort out my feelings and get in touch with my brain. I knew I had done wrong, but what could it be, and couldn’t stop thinking of our daughter ‘Sherie’.

Almost twenty-two and I’ve travelled around trying to make ends and settle down. I bought a guitar and I sang around, here and there in these country towns. I was offered a job to pay my way, and this place I thought I’d stay. At least for a while ‘til I got my grips, I played for the love of it and got some tips.

I wrote songs from the heart, you know, and lots of feelings from down below.

I sit here in the loneliness of this room, a vision unveils itself from the gloom. Long red hair, a pretty face, skin as soft as lace. I recognised her instantly. She was a girl so dear to me but she would go and I would know. Yes! She’s gone and left me to the loneliness of this room.

Life goes on, and so must I, it sees the birth of a thousand unwanted lies, but she would stay embedded in my mind, so I could never forget her, and the loneliness of this room. Words like this stuck in my mind, I’d knew I’d forget, but it would take time.

Here it is now nearly December, you know these words I still remember. Now I’m twenty-two and life’s still cruel, I thought: ‘Why did Mum ever choose this school’. I had no friends, they were too far away, no one to talk to and too old to play. What did I do that was so bad, why do I feel empty and sad.

The big twenty-two, it’s a bright new day, I packed my things and on my way. I went back home to Mum and Jack, they were so pleased to see me back.

It was that very night that I had a drink, and I had some more, ‘til I couldn’t think. I started home ‘cause it was so far, in those days I never owned a car, and as I wandered down the lonely road, someone came by in a very slow mode. A cry called out, “Would you like a ride?” I said yes thanks and swallowed my pride. For there was not many people I really knew, you could count them on one hand, there was just a few.

There wasn’t a day that never went by that I didn’t stop and have a cry, or at least a tear, but what could you expect after seven long years. People would say ‘stop’ and ‘don’t be a fool’. I’d like to see them, just one day in that school.

I tried to look back on some good days we had, there wasn’t too many, which was rather sad. We were fostered out on weekends a lot, to different families, whether you liked it or not. I’ll go back to Westmead School and find out why they were so cruel, and why they treated us they like they did, because after all we were only kids. I’d like to see them do it in this day and age, I know you parents would put up a rage.

I’ve seen psychiatrists ‘cause I felt the need, something that was caused by that school ‘Westmead’. I’ve often thought; ‘what was in their mind? To treat us like they did most of the time. What benefit did they really get, to leave us with memories we can’t forget? I am not the only one who is in need, there were lots of us from that school ‘Westmead’.