Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Empty Cradles," by Margaret Humphreys

"Empty Cradles," by Margaret Humphreys
Also published as Oranges and Sunshine.

In 1986 Margaret Humphreys, a Nottingham social worker, investigated a woman's claim that, aged four, she had been put on a boat to Australia by the British government. At first incredulous, Margaret discovered that this was just the tip of an enormous iceberg. Up to 150,000 children, some as young as three years old, had been deported from children's homes in Britain and shipped off to a 'new life' in distant parts of the Empire, right up until as recently as 1970.

Many were told that their parents were dead, and parents were told that their children had been adopted. In fact, for many children it was to be a life of horrendous physical and sexual abuse far away from everything they knew. Margaret and her team reunited thousands of families before it was too late, brought authorities to account, and worldwide attention to an outrageous miscarriage of justice.

I found out about this book via another blogger John D.  I read this book in a day as I couldn't put it down.  I not sure who I am most mad at the British Government, the Australian Government, or the various charities that were involved in this tragedy.  I was shocked at the attitude of all those in authority and how they tried to  sweep all of this under the carpet.

The BBC does not come out favourably in this book.  I still can't fathom how no one blew the whistle earlier on this. I cannot imagine how these poor children coped or survived the horrible living conditions and the abuse and even being told that they had no one left in the world that cared about them.  It just beggars belief.

I haven't seen either the movie "Oranges and Sunshine" or the television series "The Leaving of Liverpool."  Though I think it would be hard to watch I will see if I can borrow the movie from the library.

This is a book everyone should read as it heartbreaking to think this happened within our life time.


  1. If you go to this link you will find some interesting information about this. I'm a member of this organisation - CLAN. Sue

  2. Wow, and it amazes me that governments would like us to trust them to take care of the foster system. Knowing that things like this happen (and never make the press) makes me wonder about the humanity of those in charge.

  3. I have put this on my wishlist....will check library for it and also check Netflix for movie.

  4. Hi Gill, It is a really sad story and a shameful part of Australia's history. The Australian government has a lot to answer for. They also, for several decades in the 20th century, "stole" Aboriginal children from their families and put them in homes. It was a disgrace - they are now known as "the stolen generation". A few years ago our Prime Minister officially apologised to them.

  5. I just have to tell you, I saw the movie a long time ago...well at least before Roger's stroke in 2016. And I got the book a long time ago, and finally read it this past summer. I sat and cried so much...I just do not know how those children survived. And the lying!

    Did you see the movie Philomena? With Judi Dench? I bet you would like it.


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