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Empty Cradles

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  726 ratings  ·  155 reviews
In 1986 Margaret Humphreys, a Nottingham social worker, investigated the case of a woman who claimed that, at the age of four, she had been put on a boat to Australia by the British government. Margaret Humphreys soon discovered that as many as 150,000 children had in fact been deported from children's homes in Britian and shipped off to a "new life" in distant parts of th ...more
Paperback, 383 pages
Published February 1st 1996 by Transworld Publishers (first published 1994)
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Aug 18, 2011 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: social workers - for once the social worker is the hero not the villain
Shelves: misc
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Rebecca Lonsdale
such a sad story to read, to know what went on back in the early days and to hear some of the family reunions, it was a mixture. I love reading books like these.
Nur Farihin
One word to describe this book. Disturbing. It's very difficult to imagine what the child migrants in this book had been through, though the author, also the one who uncovered this awful scheme tells it in detail. All the deceit and lies. All those poor children, physically and sexually abused. All those poor families that have been told lies that their children was dead or adopted with loving family when the truth is that they've been sent to Australia, Canada, etc. Emotionally abused. Even I w ...more
Got a little hard going at times, but worth the effort. I never knew about all those poor kids who were sent over here!
Well. I think this may just be the first 5 star review I've ever given.

Oranges and Sunshine is a true account of one woman's struggle to reunite thousands of children who were taken to Australia as young children as part of child migrant schemes.

In the early part off the 20th century, and right up until the mid-60's, children were removed from institutions and orphanages across the UK and shipped to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Rhodesia. These children were reported to be orphans and we'r
A heartbreaking account of one woman's plight in unearthing the truth about over 100,000 child migrants from England to various Commonwealth countries (predominantly Australia) in the twentieth century, and the abuse they endured once they arrived.

The only other type of historical memoir which stirs this much emotion in me usually relates to the Holocaust. With one English, and one Australian parent, I am appalled that so many English children were subjected to this type of deceit and abuse in
Aug 25, 2010 Mary rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: expose
After readingThe Stranger Houseby Reginald Hill, I became interested in the premise of this novel. In the early 1900's, a scheme was devised by Great Britain to "re-locate" so-called "orphan children". Children as young as 5 years old were sent on ships to foreign countries; a great majority of them to Australia. They were told that they were being given an opportunity to live in families' homes; go to school and learn a trade instead of continuing to live in orphanages. They were told that thei ...more
This is appalling where organised institutions, governments, and religion orchestrated the worst case of neglect I have yet seen, then lied, and tried to hide their mistakes.

It is believed that my grandfather may have been a part of this tragic event, though who would truly know as he never spoke of his childhood. Adopted at 14 from a Catholic orphanage, that gave his family and myself our surname. No siblings, or any mention of his surname prior to being adopted. No birth certificate, or photo
Sally Seymore
Margaret Humphreys, a social worker from Nottingham is an extra-ordinary person to have taken this investigation upon herself. This book is an account of how she stumbled across grown-ups who were taken from the UK to Australia as children, boat-loads full, mostly without their parents' knowledge. Many of them were orphans but then many weren't but were told they were. As Margaret started to investigate she came upon thousands of people who were sent to Australia, Canada and the then Rhodesia in ...more
incredible to see how long it took for any official acknowledgement to come. and fear of financial penalty seems to have kept the charities from making an honest and unflinching look at their role and governance. the persistence of the margaret stems from strong morality and a deep belief in keeping one's word, such an admirable person. that she suffered death threats is an horrible reminder of how much power abusers will extert to keep their actions secret.
read it and eep (like I did)
This would be a good topic but it was too long and...I feel bad saying it...boring. The stories are in theory horrendous, although she doesn't give much detail about that; she just says they are. It is sort of appalling that the British govt doesn't want to take responsibility for their part and the other agencies kind of tried to brush it under the rug. Because it was over 75 years ago, no one wants to step up and say that had a part, and other reasons I don't understand, their is never really ...more
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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.” 0 likes
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