Monday, 28 November 2011

St Mary's Group

This is my first attempt as blogger.  I was born in 1939 and at the age of two years was taken under the care of the Catholic Rescue Society which ran several orphanages.  Being brought up in an orphanage was the only life I ever knew.  My mother was a single parent and my father whilst he acknowledged me at the outset then reflected and changed his mind and disappeared.  My mother kept in touch with the Society until I was four years old then married a soldier and in quick time dropped all further  contact.   

Delvin John Flynn


  1. Good on you Tony. You are the first to visit the Blog

  2. I am a former child migrant, abandoned by my mother and placed in a convent – Brighton – at the age of two. From Brighton – probably at about age six- I was whizzed of to an orphanage - St Mary’s - in Gravesend, Kent. My memories of England are mixed; some frightening and some quite pleasant. One day a Father Stinson visited the orphanage and asked me and the other boys if we would like to go to Australia; he said there was plenty of sunshine & we would ride ponies to school. Of course I said yes - riding ponies to school!

    I arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia; on the SS New Australia on 22nd February 1953. From Fremantle we were driven – back of a truck – to Clontarf Boys Town. On arrival the boys were split up in to groups; one group went to Bindoon Orphanage and another group to Tardun Orphanage. It was a terribly sad and lonely experience; splitting us all up. I loved some of those boys and I would never see them again

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    About the third day a group of us boys decided to flee our surroundings. We were walking along Manning Road and a truck pulled up beside us containing a Christian Brother who remarked, ‘Where are you going boys”? I think we all responded, ‘Perth, Brother!” He drove us back to the orphanage without reprimanding us. I know one of the boys in the group was Colin Alexander; I don’t know who the brother was!!

    I spent eight years in Clontarf and suffered terribly & had my brain structure altered as a result of abuse (sexual, psychological & psychical), terror, deprivation & anxiety annihilation. Brother O’Shea was the Principal at the time & Brother Doyle – who was my primary caregiver – took the reins from 1953 – 1959. He taught me in my Junior Class; he was also the football coach. He was a hard taskmaster but I hold no animosity towards him or any of the other Brothers’.

    One day I was throwing rocks down the piggery – I was about 9 – and my elbow clicked. I imagined I badly bruised it, but felt too much fear and shame to report the incident. A couple of days later I was confronted by Brother Doyle; he noticed that I couldn’t bend my arm. I was taken to the hospital and was told that I had chipped a bone in my elbow, but nothing would be done until I was older. A few years later on visiting hospital they informed me that they could make the arm worse if they operated. So since the age of nine I have had an arm that I can’t straighten fully; with a bone sticking out of it.

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    I was able to function ok with it, football, etc albeit at about 70% capacity. In retrospect, it was probably a blessing in disguise ---I may have got too vain if it was fully operational. On another occasion I was up in the old vegetable tower looking at the graffiti on the wall. I heard footsteps on the stairwell below me and this dark figure appears before me; I froze with fear, it was a Christian Brother. “What are you doing up here (tower), Mick, don’t you know it’s out of bounds.” Just looking at the writing on the wall, Brother,” I said fearfully.

    His response was that I would wait outside his room so he could come and deal with me. He dealt with me alright, by raping me. What made it more horrific and soul destroying after he had finished using my body was the remark he made later visiting my bed; “Mick, don’t forget to go to confession!! The sexual abuse affected me quite profoundly; following the initial shock of the assault, I denied to myself that I had been assaulted.

    I also made a promise to my abuser not to mention it to anyone. I imagine I tried to suppress the memory of what had happened in an attempt to regain my previous stability. I imagine I had shut down emotionally - emotional numbness – which may have been a shock response to what happened to me.

    Before the assault started the Christian Brother told me, “that he was going to show me what it was like;” I imagine it was some sort of association with the graffiti I was perusing in the old vegetable tower. Part of me enjoyed the attention I received during the assault. Many years later I confronted my abuser and was able to express how I felt about the abuse he perpetrated upon me. He explained the hell he went through and the fear that one day I would confront him. Later on I felt quite sad; he was a sad man who had his own demons to process.

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    I have since forgiven him. Apart from the abuse, I enjoyed the activities at Clontarf namely football, cricket & handball. We built the handball courts & every opportunity I got, I would play. There was one boy – Julian Gill – who I played with quite a lot, but I could never beat him.

    Every morning we would parade on the main quadrangle before scrambling of to school. In the winter months we would play football on the quadrangle – a bunch of socks tied in a ball – which I really enjoyed; in the summer it would be cricket. Many of the boys used to keep pigeons – Wally Kerkoff comes to mind – and bantams. Clontarf is situated on the Canning River and some of the boys used to go kyleing - a piece of metal shaped like a boomerang – which entailed throwing the kylie toward the front of school of fish; hoping one would meet its maker. I tried it once – unsuccessfully; I know Hughie McConnell was quite adept!

    Every year we would have a sports carnival - mini Olympics - the boys were split up into four teams named after former Christian Brothers – Hefferans, Bodkins, Daleys & O’Connors – and after it was all over most of us would be suffering from horrific sunburn. There was no awareness in those days of the dangers of the sun, skin cancer etc.

    I remember on the weekends – especially in the summer – kicking footballs, playing handball, sneaking out of the orphanage to buy cigarettes. I also remember the pain, the shame the
    loneliness & not feeling I belonged. In retrospect, I had split off quite early; a defence mechanism against the terror that was locked in my body. The process I went through to recover the little boy – Michael - I abandoned is explained later in my testimony.

    There were lots of other happenings at Clontarf which I don’t think is appropriate to list here. If anyone was brought up in boys home, orphanages etc, they would comprehend what I mean. A child needs to feel loved; a child needs to be cuddled…. Do you get the picture?
    I was kicked out of Clontarf late 1960 and spent the next 40 years in another dimension- wandering aimlessly around Australia. I discovered alcohol – the magic elixir - which gave me temporary relief from the pain & fear which permeated my whole being. I couldn't settle job for very long – I’ve had over 100 – until I settled down and got married; I managed to stay in a government job for nine years. In the interim I discovered AA – where I met my ex – wife - which curbed my drinking but wasn’t effective in dealing with my demons.

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    Seven years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits – hospital - in four months; I imagined I was in hell.

    I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis mental, physical & spiritual. I had been in therapy since 1994, processing the terror – anxiety annihilation – from my childhood. My therapy consisted of one to one with a therapist, group work FOO (Family of Origin Therapy) and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing).

    I had a fear I would be locked away – but the hospital nurses were very supportive. I didn’t seem to have any control over my process. I was released from hospital 16th September 2004, but my anxiety had only subsided a little. Was there ever going to be any relief??? One morning – waking up with my demons - I got down on my knees and asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Over time my anxiety has dissipated & I believe –because I was prepared to face my demons.


  7. amendment

    Over time my anxiety has dissipated & I believe –because I was prepared to face my demons - Jesus delivered me from my psychological hell.

    Praise the Lord!!

    1. Hi Micky,
      I don't know if this will reach you because your original post was in 2011 but I thought I'd comment anyway.
      I saw that you mentioned Colin Alexander.
      He was my grandfather. He and his brother George came to Australia on the New Australia on the 22nd Feb 1953!
      I have only heard a few stories about him from my grandmother, as he passed away when I was just a child in 1995.
      I'm sorry for the trauma you experienced at Clontarf, and I'm glad you have eventually found some peace.

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  10. Kirsty
    Perhaps you may prefer to write to me direct at:
    delvin4flins @gmai;.com

  11. Should anyone interested in the subject of child migrants or children brought up in the orphanage at St Mary's, Gravesend, Kent, England they can contact me at:

  12. My experience of St Mary's,Gravesend; is one of abuse and beatings, indulged by the nuns at their whim, at my unfortunate incarceration during the early 1950's. To read the platitudes reflected above has driven me to react, after 60 years of mute fury. Should you require explicit details, contact me. But beware if you open the box you may be burnt by that which you seek. RA

    1. I can be contacted at