Sent to Australia at the age of eight, Dorian Reece grew up believing himself to be either rejected by his family or an orphan. It took him seventy-five years to find his lost biological family.

He was just a very young child when he was sent to Australia. Dorian Reece grew up believing he was either unwanted or an orphan, enduring a miserable childhood in a boys’ home, beaten and abused by men who were supposed to care for him.

Yet when he finally reunited with his long-lost family after 75 years, he discovered his father had begged the authorities to let him raise his son, also wanting to be put in touch with Dorian’s mother, who was forced to give up. his son having had him out of wedlock.

A new life

Dorian is one of the thousands of British children who, from 1946 to 1970, were sent thousands of miles to former colonies when all ties with their families were severed. About 7,000 children, mostly between the ages of 7 and 10, were removed from English orphanages and sent to Australia, where they were adopted or raised in institutions, many of them neglectful and abusive. Dorian recalled living in an orphanage near Birmingham run by Father Hudson’s Homes, when he and his friends learned they were going to have a “new life” in Australia. “I don’t think they explained why we were sent back from England. We may have heard of a kangaroo but we had no real knowledge of Australia” he commented to the Mirror newspaper “We had the idea that we had no parents and that they were sending us to a better country”.

hell in paradise

His initial enthusiasm soon dried up when he arrived at Castledare Boys’ Home in Wilson, Western Australia. Self-proclaimed “Huckleberry Finn’s paradise, a big camp with lots of boys to play with”, Dorian and his friends go to hell. A 1948 inspection report found that the bedroom floors were stained with “urine which had leaked through the continuously saturated mattresses”. A 2017 investigation collected testimonies from former residents recounting “sadistic” beatings and sexual abuse by men from the Christian Brotherhood religious order that ran the orphanage. At 11, Dorian transferred to Clontarf Boys’ Town in Perth, also run by the Christian Brothers. Of his life there, he retains horrible memories “The beatings were the basis. The one that always comes to mind was a guy named Mowen. He was walking in the L-shaped veranda with a concrete floor and he was limping, you heard him coming, you heard clip, clop, bang. The blow was the cane hitting the side of his black coat,” he explained, adding “You had 30 boys in the class and you can feel the atmosphere, some boys are literally peeing in fear”.

years of fear

For those suspected of breaking the rules, the sentence is terrible: they are sent to Mowen’s room “You go in there, he will punish you and then he will try to console you, to sit on his lap. I will say no more… I am not the only one to whom this situation has happened. Lives destroyed by what they have been through”. Despite the horrific memories of loneliness and cruelty during his early years, Dorian managed to build a happy family life in Sydney. After marrying Kay, curiosity led him to London, where they tracked down his mother, who had a stall in Whitechapel Market. “Kay said, ‘Do you remember Dorian?’ The poor lady became completely panicked. She was in shock,” he said. it was beautiful, the excitement of seeing her for the first time,” he recalled.

A story revealed

Staying in touch, it was through her that Dorian found out his father’s name was George Thomas. He was born in 1892 and died in 1981. George had fought in the First World War and had been gassed in the Somme. A chemical engineer, he then lived all over the world. He had separated from his wife in 1938, nine years before Dorian was born. After his mother’s death, Dorian made a Freedom of Information request to the British nursing home he had been to, and made the incredible discovery that his father had not only paid for his upkeep, but had wanted to be part of his family and that of his mother. His father had even written to the nursing home to say he wanted to take care of his son and reconnect with Dorian’s mother. The nursing home told her that “the nicest thing you can do for her is to stop thinking about her”. “They had no right to intervene in this way, but they did, and the consequences were that the people who love me went to places where it was not good to grow up” regretted Although Dorian’s two siblings, who were adults when he was born, are deceased, he was reunited with his niece Anne and son Pete, living in Lancashire.

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Lara T.
Lara T.

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