Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120 - 139)

WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE 1998MRS M HUMPHREYS, OAM, MR I THWAITES, MR DSPICER, THE HON MRS J TAYLOR, MR M DALTON, MR J HENNESSEY, MR N JOHNSTON and MRS P IRELAND.

120. May I ask a little bit about what your mother was able to tell you before she died about the circumstances of you leaving Britain and going to Australia?

(Mr Dalton) I was born in 1939. She placed me in Nazareth House, Finchley at the age of about four months because, being a single mother in those days, she just could not handle things. She put me in the care of the nuns. When she went back to retrieve me—I am not sure of the exact time—they told her that I had disappeared in the evacuation. That was all. This was the nuns telling her this. That was all she was told.

121. Presumably she believed this.

(Mr Dalton) She believed it. Where else was she going to go? These good sisters she had put me in the care of told her. Was she going to disbelieve them?

122. Did she assume you had just disappeared?

(Mr Dalton) She had no idea. She did assume that I was lost in the evacuation as she was told, while in fact I was transferred from Finchley down to Swansea. There is documentation of that. I have paperwork signed by the nuns to say I went from Finchley at age two. I have been to Swansea on my previous trip. I went down to Swansea. There was a Sister Teresa there showing me her records. You came here when you were two. You were shipped out to Australia when you were seven and a half.

123. For five years you were in Wales.

(Mr Dalton) Yes.

124. In the same country basically and your mother assumed you had disappeared and could not find out where you had gone.

(Mr Dalton) Yes. My mother married in 1944 and had a first legitimate child in 1945. I am not sure whether she ever told her husband that I existed but my brother in a conversation with Mum actually terrorised her to get information and this is the knowledge I have now. I have no doubt about the truth or the authenticity of it because my mother told me in the company of my brother that this was a fact that she went looking, they told her I had disappeared, when in fact they knew exactly where I was all the time.

125. Which was the organisation which was caring for you in this country before you went?

(Mr Dalton) The Sisters of Nazareth, Nazareth House and Swansea was a Nazareth House as well.

126. They had the records in Swansea.

(Mr Dalton) They had the records.

127. To show exactly what had happened in your circumstances but your mother did not know about that.

(Mr Dalton) Yes; that is exactly right.

Dr Stoate

128. Thank you very much for that; again it was a moving account and has informed us tremendously. I have learned an awful lot this morning. The allegation you are making does seem quite strong. You are saying they deliberately withheld information from your mother. Is that what you are saying?

(Mr Dalton) That is exactly what I am saying. I have documents to prove that it is a fact.

129. They knew full well where you were but they deliberately lied to your mother.

(Mr Dalton) They knew exactly where I was.

130. How long afterwards did your mother find out about you? It was not until the Child Migrants' Trust found her.

(Mr Dalton) That is true; yes.

131. Do you know whether she made any enquiries of the police or of any other authorities or did she just take their word?

(Mr Dalton) I do not think she did because she believed the initial story that I had disappeared in the evacuation. Why was she going to doubt the word of the nuns? This was the fact of the time. I might add just a little history of my mother. She was the youngest of 10 children from Ireland. I have since then traced through knowledge I have, I have been over to Ireland to Kilkenny—I did send it here in a written submission—a family tree from my grandparents, my 10 uncles and aunties, my first cousins, second cousins and third cousins. I have one living aunt still in Ireland in Kilkenny. I have something like 63 living cousins in Ireland and some in Australia but they are Irish, they are coming back to Ireland. It is criminal to think that all those people are out there. They told me that I was a war orphan. Those were the words we were given. We were just told we were war orphans and that is why we were over there in Clontarf.

132. How old were you when you first obtained your genuine papers and knew really who you were?

(Mr Dalton) I was 56 when I met my mother. I was probably about 54 when the confirmation came through from the Child Migrants' Trust that they had indeed found my mother alive and only living a few miles from the address on my baptism certificate, mum's marriage certificate, birth certificates, it was all there. They had all this information. We were denied it. It was just a blatant coverup, there is no other way to put it.Dr Stoate: Thank you very much; that is very helpful.

Mr Austin

133. May I come on to the question of you and people in similar circumstances coming here either to meet their relatives or to research their background. What financial burden did this place on you? Did you get any assistance financially to come to the UK in any way or did you have to finance that entirely yourself?

(Mr Dalton) That is probably a question I would prefer not to answer in part. I will answer the question but I financed part of my trip. The Christian Brothers, under the guise of CBERS (Christian Brothers Ex-Resident Services), did not volunteer assistance, but I found out by accident that they were willing to assist; they did not go out and broadcast the fact that they would pay a fare or whatever. However, I did apply and I was means tested to see whether I could or could not afford. I got an economy air fare and some accommodation money. The full amount was A$3,200. My wife came over with me on that. We financed our own situation. I have financed every other visit since. That is a one-off situation. CBERS will do it but they will not volunteer it. You have to find out and you have to apply and you have to qualify. That is why I was a bit reluctant to answer your question in the first place.

134. From your experience, you have obviously met and spoken with other people, are there clearly people who are prevented from doing what you did for financial reasons?

(Mr Dalton) Very much so; yes, very much so. I am glad you asked that question actually. It was a curly one and it is one that these Christian Brothers seem to think that because they give you an assisted thing all the problems they caused in the first place are finished. They reckon you owe them. They actually asked me to fill out a form when I went back to tell then what jolly good boys they were. You can imagine what I did with that form.

Chairman

135. May I just ask, before we move on to your colleague, whether you have any thoughts on what you feel should be done by the British Government for people in your circumstances now?

(Mr Dalton) I have a lot of thoughts but I do not think I will tell you most of them. I would have to agree entirely and most sincerely with the previous speakers: the financial situation is the most important. I have done a bit of work with the Child Migrants' Trust in Perth in so far as when they had their premises there we have moved and hung a few pictures around the place. It is a never-ending battle for finance.

136. When you say "finance" do you mean particularly in terms of the work of the Trust?

(Mr Dalton) Money.

137. In terms of financing the work of the Trust in tracing, counselling and this sort of area.

(Mr Dalton) Yes; yes. The Perth office has been without a counsellor for about 18 months. We had a counsellor and for financial reasons that counsellor disappeared for 18 months. We had just got used to having someone there to talk to, someone we could trust, when, because of the financial situation, that person was removed for 12 months and we were all talking to answering machines. The Melbourne office, as Ian would know, was overloaded not only with their own hassles but hassles from our side. The number of people who can be employed by the grants which are given, the little titbits...There is hardly enough to pay a wage let alone premises and this is a stop/start situation which the Child Migrants' Trust have been forced to live with. We should like to see that cease and some real funding and long-term funding. When I say "long term": for as long as it takes for these people to find their parents, remembering that the last shipment was in 1967. We are not old people. There are some round about the 45 bracket so there is still time for them to find their people. Without the funding the Trust is not going to be able to do it and we do not feel like going back to the migration bodies because they are just going to tell us the same lies they have told us all our lives.

138. We are most grateful for your very helpful evidence. It may well be that we come back to you later on this morning.

(Mr Dalton) Thank you for your time.

139. May I bring in Mr Johnston to say a few words about your own personal circumstances and thoughts at this stage?

(Mr Johnston) Again, as did the other child migrants, I thank you for this opportunity and thank you very much to Margaret for giving us the chance to tell people who may make a difference to our future and the future of so many hundreds of wretches who still live in Australia. I cannot speak for the other countries but I am sure they have their problems as well.


 
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