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Home » Books » History » Europe » England

Oranges and Sunshine

Empty Cradles

By Margaret Humphreys

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Format: Paperback, 383 pages
Other Information: 2x8pp
Published In: United Kingdom, 17 March 2011
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 children's homes in Britain and shipped off to a 'new life' in distant parts of the Empire, right up until as recently as 1970. Many were told that their parents were dead, and parents often believed that their children had been adopted in Britain. In fact, for many children it was to be a life of horrendous physical and sexual abuse far away from everything they knew. Margaret reveals how she unravelled this shocking secret and how it became her mission to reunite these innocent and unwilling exiles with their families in Britain before it was too late.

Promotional Information

Now a major film, the book that exposed the scandal of Britain's forgotten and abused child migrants, previously published as Empty Cradles

Promotional Information

Now a major film, the book that exposed the scandal of Britain's forgotten and abused child migrants, previously published as Empty Cradles


About the Author

Margaret Humphreys is the Director and founder of the Child Migrants Trust, supported by Nottinghamshire County Council. For her services on behalf of the child migrants, she was awarded the Order of Australia - one of only a few Britons ever to have been so honoured, and she was appointed CBE in the 2011 New Year Honours list . She lives in Nottingham with her husband and two children.


"It is a story that defies belief." Independent "The secrets of the lost children of Britain may never have been revealed if it had not been for [the actions of] Margaret Humphreys." Sunday Times "A modern Florence Nightingale." Sydney Morning Herald "A truly astonishing, haunting, real-life detective story." She (Australia) "Brought tears to my eyes. It is impossible to read...without thinking "These could be my parents. These could be my children."...Despite the sadness and anger at its centre, hope remains the principle message of this remarkable book." -- Terry Waite The Times

EAN: 9780552163354
ISBN: 055216335X
Publisher: Corgi Books
Dimensions: 21.84 x 14.22 x 2.29 centimetres (0.30 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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10 review(s)
All Reviews
carolyn on
Everyone should read this book! It should be mandatory reading for everyone, so that we learn from our terrible mistakes and never make them again. It's gut wrenching reading, horrific in some ways, but so uplifting in others. Real people, real children, real governments making dreadful life altering decisions for children, with dire consequences. It is not sensationlised in any way at all - just the bare facts of a dark part of british, canadian and australian history which didn't end that long ago. Really well written. It's also a triumph of the human spirit once again, that children treated SO badly, can actually survive and at least have some sort of life once more but never the full life it should have been. Margaret Humphreys is an absolute hero in the real sense of the word, giving up her life with her own family, to reunite hundreds of 'lost' children with their now elderly parents. In fact her whole family sacrificed their lives with their own mother in order to support her quest. I couldn't put this book down.
Fay on
Incredible story and hard to believe Britain has still not acknowledged the systematic replacement of children to countries within the Empire. Not to have parental permission and to tell the children their parents are dead and tell the parents their children are adopted or deceased beggars belief. The Church, Dr Barnardos, and other so called "child facilities" have a lot to be accountable for.
Mrs on
A fascinating insight into a dramatic and tragic era. This book gives detailed descriptions of people and places and allows the reader to gain some understanding of Margaret Humphrey's determination, courage and persistence in helping those caught up in this situation. Sometimes confronting but always interesting. It is hard to believe that this actually happened in our recent past. I would highly recommend this book.
trish on
again some more
Diane on
I cried almost the whole way through this book. To think that the British & Australian Governments could have thought it was a good idea to put innocent children on a boat & send them thousands kms away to another country is inconceivable. Then the abuse that these poor children were made to endure at the hands of those suppose to be caring for them is criminal.Highly recommend this book.
Betty on
Loved how this story was written. It highlighted past behaviour of political and religious leaders and placed the personal consequence of their decisions and actions in balance. What an amazing woman Margaret Humphries is for her lifelong crusade to right many, many wrongs. I was absorbed by her account of things.
Anonymous on
Whilst I commend the efofrts that Margaret Humphreys and the directors took to bring this story to the masses, it is also disheartening to hear the pain from some of the survivors who only speak highly of their experience of the child migrant system and the opportunity to be given a second chance at life from the harsh realities of Britain. Britain of the day was preparing for World War 2, Mothers had huge social and financial issues with rearingchildren on their own, some children were orphans and were looking at a life of crime and unfortunately there is evil in every man when it comes to being in the position of power and so called care.I know of my grandfather being one of only a select few given the opportunity of a tertiary education and went on to be one of the head cheese people in the country with Dept. of Agriculture. Including, the ex-ABC Chief David Hill andothers having better lives because of Fairbridge Farm at Molong NSW and the child migrant system. I'm one of its grandsons and I'm proud that it was available for my family!
Powerful and shocking narrative, one womans journey for justice.
Jamie on
Fantastic service Fishpond better than e-bay more reliable service Trusting
Lee on
The subject of the book was well worth knowing about and it was an extraordinary tragedy for the children. I realise Margaret is not a writer but a social worker, but on the down side for me was Margaret Humphreys' need to let us readers know what a hardworking, downright lovely lady she was. An example is where she writes that she gathered up all the flowers given to her and made sure they were sent to a local hospital. This continual pat on the back was rife throughout the book. I have no doubt Margaret worked tirelessly for the cause, but it would have been far better for the reader to work it out themselves, and we would have. Unfortunately the self gratification took away from the content in my opinion.

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