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Oranges and Sunshine: Empty Cradles

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  940 ratings  ·  181 reviews
Also published as Empty Cradles.

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
ebook, 384 pages
Published October 13th 2011 by Transworld Digital (first published 1994)
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Paul Bryant
Aug 18, 2011 Paul Bryant rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: social workers - for once the social worker is the hero not the villain
Rewritten, having just seen the movie from last year.


This is a hell of a story, which has a whole skein of personal connections to me.

In the mid 1980s Margaret Humphreys was your average social worker living about three miles away from where I’m typing this review, in West Bridgford, Nottingham. She got interested in what happens when adopted children try and trace their biological parents, which as we know is an emotional minefield. One day a letter arrived from Australia from someone who thou
Deborah Ideiosepius
This was a fascinating and absorbing story clearly narrated and very readable. The detective element of uncovering an almost unbelievably large, organised and hidden abuse of power is well developed and described. I would recommend this book to anyone in Australia.

I actually read it a while back during my criminology degree, I have just been to see the movie based on the book ‘Oranges and sunshine’ which I think is a very credible job of it. Of course a lot is lost in transition to a movie but I
What a shocking story to read....This book is a must read. Normally this is not the genre I will spend time on reading but it was so captivating that I could not put it down and it is still haunting me. I did not have any knowledge of this situation until I read this story. Margaret Humpreys, a social worker in England is also a very brave woman who took on the bureaucracy to help English child migrants also now known as the Lost Children, who were taken to all parts of the then British Empire, ...more
Erica Thompson
'Did this really happen? How could this be? Surely we would have heard about it.'

My thoughts exactly. Why have I not heard more about this? I think this book should be required reading for everyone! I highly recommend it to all adult readers.

I actually picked this book up from the library because the title caught my eye. I had never heard of it and had no idea what it was about. This is the true account of Margaret Humphreys, who uncovered and investigated the deportation of up to 150,000 childr
Phase Reading

Sometimes, important emotionally charged true stories are ruined by bad writing.

This non-fiction book is about the dreadful and covered-up history of child migrants. For three decades (1940s - 1967), thousands of English and Irish children were taken from their homes and shipped to Commonwealth countries (namely NZ, Canada, Rhodesia and Australia) to populate the colonies and provide (slave) labour to farms. They were told they were orphans and sometimes their names and birthdates were changed.
A remarkable book about unspeakable pain inflicted on generations of British children by government policies and volunteer or charitable organisations entrusted with their care. As I read these pages, with the snippets and details of many individual stories, I was reminded of so many people I have met over my years of working in various institutions in Australia where untold stories were ever lurking just below the surface.
It was not just the child migrants sent out from England who were to suf
This book was an amazing insight into a long and ill conceived period of social engineering presided over by several governments and many powerful institutions and probably the most absorbing and informative books I have read in a long time.
Child migration is a very emotive subject but for the most part Margaret Humphries writes clearly and factually. It was shocking to realise that Child migration was still happening when I migrated to Australia in the early 1960s and even more so when she desc
Darren Gore
In the mid-1980s, English social worker Margaret Humphreys made a shocking discovery.

For several decades up until the 1960s, over a hundred thousand British children were taken mostly from orphanages under false pretenses and shipped overseas to Commonwealth countries like Australia and Canada where they were promised happy new lives - but in many cases were instead treated like slave labour, suffered physical and sexual abuse, and forgotten about...except by anguished relatives back in Britain
I work in a university library and have to catalogue hundreds of books. I usually look at the parts of the book I need to to do my job and then I move onto the next book, but this book was different. It grabbed my attention and before I knew what I was doing I had already started reading it. I live in Perth, where some of the largest migration took place and the worst abuses. The author talking about her special uneasiness about Perth, during her many visits. And then there were the death threat ...more
Lyle Appleyard
I read this book for my Toastmasters Book Club. This book is also known as Oranges and Sunshine.

This book is a true story. It tells the story of British Child Migrants. These were children that were sent to various places in the empire and commonwealth. These children were, or were suppose to be orphans. There were stories of neglect, abuse and horror.

Although this book is nonfiction, it will make you feel emotions. You will feel sorrow when you hear of the stories of children seperated from the
Ruth Lechler
Incredible! Who would have believed what atrocity happened to children who were sent to other countries as migrant "workers" and enslaved in the countires that they were sent to, told that their parents had either passed away, and in many cases were told that nobody wanted them. Many of the children were abused, both physically and emotionally. And, the parents of the children, when trying to find out what happened to their children, were told that the children had been adopted out.....none of w ...more
Robyn Smith
An excellent account of a social worker in England discovering a shocking secret covered up for years by the British and Australian governments. Post war Britain had overflowing orphanages, so the government and "social agencies" decided to pack unwitting children off to the "colonies", Australia, "Rhodesia", South Africa and even New Zealand. Illegitimate children were also sent, often being told their parents were dead. Many of the children were subjected to the most inhumane and brutal treatm ...more
Linda Toft
Wow! There are so many things in HIstory we are not made aware of. I was shocked and appalled to discover during the time of my own childhood, children were still being shipped off, out of England to other places in the world without their consent or the consent of parents and family! Shipped to places like Australia, face life in dire conditions, slave labor, subservient positions, all under the guise of Charity and furthering the United Kingdom in it's colonies! Sounds mid-evil and ...more
Marcia Walker
The story of a woman approached a Nottingham social worker, to tell her that as a child she had been shipped out of a British orphanage to Australia, and what Margaret Humphreys subsequently uncovered - that up to 150,000 children had been shipped out in this manner, many with still living parents who had only temporarily left them at orphanages to overcome short lived financial difficulties.

I couldn't put this book down, my whole life went on hold until I finished it! It was recommended to me b
Aug 21, 2011 Graceann rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: history
I almost gave this book a "miss" when I first glanced at it, because I thought it would be a rather dry, historical narrative and while the subject has merit, my concern is that it would make for a rather boring read. I am glad to say that I was quite mistaken.

The criminally cruel migrant scheme which removed thousands of British children from everything familiar, including, in some cases, family members who wanted them and were told that they'd died, and plunked them down in foreign countries,
This book both shocked and inspired me.

It shocked me that as recently as 1967, small children (some as young as 3) were being shipped off to the other side of the world. As is typical with actions such as these, records were falsified, denials were made. In one instance, migrant boys were made to build their own orphanage; often without the tools or clothing necessary.

I was also inspired by Margaret Humphreys, a social worker from Nottingham, who refused to give up. The mother of two children,
Caoimhe Ní Mhaicín
This is a heartbreaking true account of child migrants who left Britain for Australia, Canada, Rhodesia and New Zealand. Many of these children were told that their parents were dead and that a better life awaited them in these countries. Unfortunately this proved not to be the case for many of the children concerned. The courage of the author in tackling this issue head on and dealing so compassionately with the child migrants is truly inspiring, and shows us all that there are people out there ...more
I'm a bit confused about this book as it is an awful historical story that fascinated me, but the execution of the book bored me to tears. I do think that people need to know about the story that is contained between these pages, and I think that's the only reason I was compelled to continue.

So mixed feelings. And now I'm confused as to whether I should take a chill pill about my reading habits if they are based on true stories! But in my world I think that non-fiction stories need to be as well
wow where do you start, this book is about the immigrant children that Britain sent to Canada, Australia and parts of Africa, and South America. they were told they had no families in Britain, or that their families no longer wanted them. In many cases the families back in Britain were told that their children had died when in care.
this story was of interest to me because, i found out that my mom's uncle was a British Home Child. we have tried to trace where he ended up and its not far from wher
Empty Cradles
I was blown away when I watched the movie years ago when it first came out. Never have I thought that a movie can tell you so little about the real story. Empty Cradles (a.k.a Oranges and Sunshine) is a book you find very hard to put down and could have read it in a day if I had the spare time. I'm impressed with Margaret's captivating style, having walked and travelled with her across the UK, Australia, Canada and Africa, and haven't been able to go away from the story - the same w
A wonderful book telling of a hidden time of British and Australian history.
The author Margaret Humphreys accidentally stumbles on a conspiracy that involved the migration of children out of Britain without their parents consent.
This harrowing tale follows the work she did to try to counsel, help and reunite survivors of this time with their relatives.
Though hard work and at times in fear of her life by threats to leave the matter drop Margaret carries on and what she thought would just be an i
Stephanie Sheaffer
I had never hear of child migration schemes until about six months ago, when that piece of history was mentioned in a Call The Midwife episode.

Approximately 130,000 children were sent from the United Kingdom to Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and Australia up until 1967. Sent away for a "better life" and/or to provide "good white stock" to other countries, the children were shipped across the sea to institutions (which often equated to sexual + physical abuse, neglec
Upon reading this story, many emotions were felt ranging from fury to heartbreak, and even to utmost happiness. The fact that this is a true story only adds to the unexpected intensity and depth within the words of those child migrants left behind and forgotten for far too long.

There were certain points in the book that stuck out to me. One of which reflected the common aspect throughout the novel that the British government would not admit their significant role of the dehumanizing aspect of th
Two things are clear from this book: what a monumentally stupid and cruel solution the Child Migrant Project was, and what a huge sacrifice Margaret Humphreys made, and continues to make, for her work. My goodness, but this woman is dedicated. My hat is off to her family for putting up with that, and to her for owning it, putting in that line from her son, when asked by a migrant what he will give for some fund or another: "I gave you my mum."

The writing is somewhat clunky but she gets her poin
Bobi Tychynski
This book is compelling. This is the first time that I've read a non-fiction piece like this and had a desire to immediately begin to do my own research. I was so drawn into the story and the heartbreaking tragedy that took place in the lives of child migrants. I think this is an important story that needs to be understood by anyone interested in commonwealth history. It is a huge stain.
Vicki Farthing
Apr 18, 2015 Vicki Farthing rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Every one
Recommended to Vicki by: My Grandmother
Shelves: biographies
I was recommended this book by my grandmother. She told me about it and I thought it was horrific. It turns out it was much worse than that.

This book is written by Margaret Humphreys about her search for the children sent to Australia. They were send to work on farms but where sent with the promise they'd have 'Sunshine and Oranges' (The name of the film based on the book) Margaret started the search thinking it would be for one or two children. It turned out there was 10's of 1000's send from t
I read this book about a shameful part of Britain's (and the "colonies") history after seeing the movie "Oranges and Sunshine". The movie based on this book is about the 130,000 children shipped to Australia to become farm labour and worse.

Read the other reviews for the statistics and shocking facts. I agree with all the five and four star ratings.

I was able to obtain it (not easily) through our library system and to have it for a short time only.

It is especially meaningful to me as the Prince
Dysphasiatic Gremlin Grrl
This was a very accessible book that taught me about the child migration schemes which sent children from Britain to Australia and other countries within the British empire. I love books that reveal a subject to me of which I had no prior knowledge and I really enjoy when the author is the main "character" in this journey of discovery. I hope to track down the movie version as well as the documentary mentioned in the book.

The only downside of the book, for me at least, was the large cast of "ch
A true and accurate telling of the child migration which occurred mostly in the fifties & sixties . Empty Cradles tells the chilling story of the UK government who took away innocent Families children and sent them to Australia to a life they thought would be an adventure. Children who would be abused in every way you can imagine. Years later it took one social worker, Margaret Humphreys to investigate and help two adults who had returned to England to find their parents and uncover the trut ...more
As EVERYONE has said this is an important and shocking topic. The story defies belief in some ways and the determination with which the author set about researching the subject and digging out the truth was amazing. One cannot believe the traumas this must have caused.

So why did I go so cold on the book by the end of it? I do not know if it was the writing style or the way the author dramatised the impact on her or whether I was somewhat taken aback by the way her whole life was taken over with
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“My Dear Mother, Please, Mum, read this letter and give me the chance to get to know you again. Mum, I love you and always will. You have been in my heart for forty years. All I remember was a funeral, then I was taken away. I was told you were dead. I will not forgive them for that. Please, Mum, write to me. Please give me the chance to prove to you that there is no hurt in me towards you.” 1 likes
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