M.A. McRae's Reviews > The Pencil Case

The Pencil Case by Lorraine Cobcroft
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Apr 05, 2013

it was amazing

The Pencil Case’ is a very powerful story, a story of a child and his sister, taken from parents who loved them to a place where no-one loved them. Paul’s parents were unable to provide decent housing, and sometimes he went hungry. So he was sentenced to a harsh prison for children, a place where living conditions were worse, he was always hungry, and he was routinely beaten by perverted evil women who liked to think they were ‘Brides of Christ.’ If he hadn’t refused to be confirmed as Catholic at the age of 12, he would have been taken to a different place, a place run by priests, a place where it is alleged that many suffered sexual abuse. Instead, he was beaten even more severely than usual, and taken to a different home, this time a home where the boys were treated far better.

A quote from the book:
‘Water-laden clouds blackened large expanses of grey sky and the wind cried and swept the town pavements clean of their litter the day Ern Stanley gathered up the voluminous legal file he had compiled over a month of journeying with me through time, and we drove through the gates of Dubbo airport. Later, Ern would remark that he came to associate the black day with the black story I told. Over a month of travel, listening, and observation, I had forced him to confront, full force, the ugly side of the society that fed him, and it scarred him.’

I have read the whole of this story, and also feel scarred. It is hard to stop thinking about it – so powerful. This is not a story of something a long time ago, or of a place far away. Paul is very close to my own age, I know the towns he speaks of. It is set in the fifties, an era of prosperity for Australia, and civilised values – civilised values apparently not shared by the Catholic church and its employees. The nuns separated brothers and sisters, allowed them no contact with family, deprived them of personal possessions, even of the clothes they arrived in, dressed them in poor clothes and half starved them. As if this was not enough, the poor children were repeatedly told they were scum, just as their parents were scum, and they were beaten on a regular basis.

‘The Pencil Case’ is a story that should be heard.
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