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Brown says sorry in Commons to post war child migrants

PUBLISHED: 15:00 24 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:38 05 October 2010

Mary... happy in the rain today and (inset) her late mum

Mary... happy in the rain today and (inset) her late mum

Carmen Valino

GORDON Brown has apologised today in the Commons to 8,000 of Britain’s child migrants sent out to Commonwealth countries after the War as orphans. One of them was 70-year-old Mary Mason, who retured from Australia to hear his apology

By Linda Lewis

GORDON Brown has apologised today in the Commons to 8,000 of Britain’s child migrants sent out to Commonwealth countries after the Second World War as orphans.

One of them was 70-year-old Mary Mason, who was born to a single mum on the Isle of Dogs in London’s East End in 1939.

She was told she was an orphan, despite her mother still being alive.

Mary made an emotional return to London this week, 63 years after being shipped off to Australia in 1947.

She met the Prime Minister in the House of Commons this-afternoon, one of 56 former child migrants to receive a personal apology for the way they had been sent abroad after the war.

They grew up in what Mr Brown said was “the harshest of conditions in cold and brutal institutions, cruelly lied to and told they were orphans.”

But now Mary Mason had come home,’ and spent the morning in the rain seeing the sights of Westminster.

“I wanted to yell that we made it,” she told the East London Advertiser this-morning.

“It was the most joyous experience walking the streets in the freezing cold, to be back on British soil.”

Mary’s unmarried mother, Marie Dunn, was a housemaid living in Millwall when she gave birth on May 25, 1939. Mary went to live with her granddad who was later killed in an air raid and she was packed off to a Catholic Rescue Society orphanage in Cheltenham.

She remembers when she was 8 being sent off to an orphanage in Western Australia.

“The nuns there were unskilled, ignorant bullies who hated children and beat the learning out of us,” she recalls.

“They told me I was dumb, backward, too stupid to educate’ and would box my ears, whacking me across the head. I still have deafness on my right side.”

The full story of the post-war migrations emerged when the Child Migrants Trust was set up in 1986. There were 7,000 children shipped to Australia and 1,300 sent to New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Rhodesia after the war.

The Trust managed to reunite Mary with some members of her family in Britain.

“But it was too late for my poor mum who died,” she added. “The lies and deception of child migration kept her from me forever, a sadness I can never overcome.”

Gordon Brown’s apology today has helped her draw a line under the miseries of her childhood.


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