Book Review: Home Child – A Child Migrant in New Zealand, by Dawn McMillan, illustrated by Trish Bowles

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_home_childSarah-Rose has a Gran with an interesting family story.  It’s a story about children taken away from their families in Great Britain, put on a ship, and sent all the way to New Zealand.

London in 1950, just after the war.  Pat was 11 years old, on a ship to New Zealand with her brother and sisters, none of them knowing what was ahead of them. It became even harder as time went on to even remember her mothers’ face or what the old lino floor back home even looked like. Their family was very poor and after their mother left, they really struggled. They had no sheets or pillows and only old army coats to keep the family warm at night. Their dad just worried about how he was going to cope so suggested that they would be better off in New Zealand, believing it was temporary, and perhaps like Blackpool it would remind them of home.  They were the poorest family in their street in London.

The day the children left home was cold but they were all wrapped up warm. They took the bus to the train station. Farewells were hard, with tears. The train stopped at the docks. What an occasion, with lots of other children, some with families and others with none, being boarded onto the ship for the long journey to New Zealand.

When they arrived in Wellington, New Zealand they stayed the night at a children’s home. They then boarded another boat, a much smaller one that took them to the South Island. They then boarded a bus that took them to Nelson. Pat and her brother and sisters had hoped to be together in their new home, but their new “Aunty and Uncle” didn’t want all of them – only Pat and her sister Shelia.

This is a story of another era. Today’s generation would be horrified of the idea of families being separated like this. We live in a different world, thanks to technology, with instant communication around the world. If for some reason families had to be split up in a war-torn country and moved to another, at least they could keep in touch if both parties had the capacity. Many lost touch during this time in the 1950’s never seeing any of their families again.

While Pat didn’t see her dad again, this story does have a happy ending, and is a valuable piece of history for children to learn about.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Home Child – A child migrant in New Zealand
by Dawn McMillan, illustrated by Trish Bowles
Oratia Books
ISBN 9780947506582

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