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Empty Cradles [Paperback]

Margaret Humphreys
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Feb 1996

EMPTY CRADLES is a powerful testament to an ordinary woman's astonishing dedication, compassion and stubborn courage.

In 1986 Margaret Humphreys, a Nottingham social worker and mother of two, 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. At first incredulous, Margaret Humphreys soon discovered that this woman's story was just the tip of an enormous iceberg. As many as an estimated 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 the Empire - the last as recently as 1967.

Many of the children were told that their parents were dead. Their parents, too, were often deceived; many believed that their children had been adopted in Britain. The reality was very different: for numerous children it was to be a life of horrendous physical and sexual abuse in institutions in Western Australia and elsewhere.

Margaret Humphreys reveals how she gradually unravelled this shocking secret; how she became drawn into the lives of some of these innocent and unwilling exiles, how it became her mission to reunite them with their families in Britain, and how her lonely crusade led to the founding of the Child Migrants Trust.

EMPTY CRADLES is a strong indictment of government, as well as charitable and religious organisations. It is a sad, harrowing story that will move the reader to anger and tears. Yet it offers a message of hope to all the victims of a shameful scandal that has been ignored for too long.

Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi; New edition edition (1 Feb 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055214164X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552141642
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 19.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 183,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'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 .'It is a story that defies belief.', Independent .'A truly astonishing, haunting, real-life detective story.', She .'Brought tears to my eyes. It is impossible to read Empty Cradles without thinking "These could be my parents. These could be my children."...Despite the sadness and anger at its centre, hope remains the principal message of this remarkable book.', Terry Waite, The Times .'A modern Florence Nightingale.', Sydney Morning Herald

Book Description

The shocking, moving story of the child migrants betrayed by Britain.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book made me angry and made me cry, it never failed to elicit an emotion. It is a powerful and moving story that defies belief. The hidden history of child migration is from another time, but living in the here and now. It is totally inconceivable that a government can send its most vulnerable, children in care, thousands of miles away ripping them from their homeland, some as young as three. The deceit and cruelty ring out from the pages not only for what Britain did, but also for how Australia treated the "lost innocents", many of whom suffered appalling abuse. The poor mites didn't stand a chance. It is a testament to their courage that they managed to live adult lives after such desperate childhoods. They have incredible hope and determination matched only by the truly remarkable Margaret Humphreys. She is an amazing woman. The way she followed her instincts to help people, do good and bring the hidden secret of child migration to the forefront of a nation's conscience. The sacrifices she made, giving her time freely and courageously are incredible. Throughout she never judges or apportions blame, instead she focuses on what really counts, reuniting families. She is a humbling human being. I met her shortly before the British government formally apologised for the part it played in child migration. Another milestone in her extraordinary journey. I wanted to know more after that meeting so I bought this book. It has gripped me from the first page. Although the writing isn't brilliant, the content is among the most compelling and moving I've ever read. Everyone should know about it and read it.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Biggest Government Blunder Ever Uncovered 24 Jan 2002
By A Customer
I too have been shocked by this story. I cannot believe that our Government farmed our children out like this, it beggars belief and the attitude of the agencies concerned is shameful. What is alarming is the timespan involved. I thank Margaret Humphreys for uncovering this horrendous fiasco and hope that her book has brought shame on anyone who played any part in the child migration schemes. I commend Margaret, her attitude and tireless efforts to do so much in challenging the relevant bodies and more importantly giving children their families back. The memories of this book will live with me forever.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oranges and Sunshine: Empty Cradles 2 May 2011
By Lidia
A friend recommended this story on Facebook. I was intrigued by the title and was totally surprised. Unfortunately, it's not in the U.S. yet. I ordered the book through Amazon.co.uk. and received it within a couple of days and read it in just as many. Your heart breaks to read of the hurt children go through and endure throughout their lives. All it takes is ONE person to try to mend the hurt and seek justice for the children, now adults. It's a very good read. You won't be disappointed, maybe only with the human condition.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This story is so troublesome and intense that you cannot put it down for a minute. This story bothers me to think that the British Government was so cruel to these children. I am from the USA and you cannot obtain this book here and I really don't know why. Saw the story on 60 minutes and called them in New York and they gave me the telephone no. of The Child Migrants Trust in UK and that is how I was able to obtain the book. From this story, I plan to make a donation to them. I would hope that others who have read the story would feel the same way.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Woman's Fight to Right a Terrible Wrong 7 Jan 2011
By Gee
When, in the course of her work as a social worker, Margaret Humphreys uncovered the heartbreaking truth about the hundreds of child migrants sent from England to Australia and Canada, she was appalled.
Determined to help the men and women who had been led to believe they were orphans or were unwanted, she embarked on a one woman campaign assist them in finding out about their parents and where possible enabling them to be reunited with family members. Sadly for many their parents were no longer alive.

It was clear a double deception had taken place, for their parents had often been given the impression their children were going to good, caring homes.

At great personal expense she travelled to meet them and hear their stories. A charity was set up with its headquarters in Nottingham where a small team work tirelessly to deal with people desperate to find out about their family backgrounds and to gain a sense of true belonging.

A film is being made about Margaret Humphreys and her work on behalf of child migrants, work which last year earned her official recognition and an award.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EMPTY CRADELS by Margaret Humphries 3 Jan 2010
This real-life account is absolutely essential reading for anyone concerned or interested in the welfare of children. What Margaret Humpries uncovered in the early 90s about child migration between the 1940s into the 1960s is almost incredible & something I consider akin to the holocaust! These children, many of whom are now in their 40s & 50s had no-one to speak for them until she began her campaign to discover the truth. They nmmber thousands who were sent to Australia & Canada, from various children's homes & respecatable charity institutions, some as young as 3 & 4 years old, often without parental consent, who experienced the most horrific physical, mental & sexual abuse fromt their new carers, with no adult voice to speak for them or to turn to in their trauma. Recently, as a result of Australia's public apology for their country's treatment of these children & for the regognition of the work of Margaret Humphries in the uncovering of the atrocities, there has been media coverage concerning the subject & some distressing interviews with people who experienced it.
Faith Garrison
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Item came and I would buy from this seller again any thanks
Published 2 days ago by pauline
4.0 out of 5 stars One for our book club
Loved the book. Not one for the beach though as it's so poignant. Well written easy read. I learnt a lot about our shameful history and the harsh way children were treated.
Published 10 days ago by pora
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad but very moving,true story of migrants
I have watched the film Oranges&Sunshine it was a very sad film which spurred me on to read the book,Empty Cradles what both governments British&Australian did was despicable it... Read more
Published 10 days ago by Mrs. S. Townsend
5.0 out of 5 stars unbelievable
I can't express my unbelief that such things happened here. Such young children serarated from their families. Gripping, read it.
Published 1 month ago by C. M. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A real eye opener
Published 1 month ago by Jenny
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
book that needs to be more in the for front.
Published 1 month ago by sandra
5.0 out of 5 stars Oranges and Sunshine. Empty Cradles Book
So sad but would recommend this book
Published 1 month ago by Mrs M P Francis
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read
I was astounded to hear real life stories of real children taken away without any thought for them or what they wanted. I just find their stories absolutely sad to the core. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Freddo
5.0 out of 5 stars The film is also excellent. Totally recommended
This book is very well written and uncovers the shocking truth about what went on with the Child Migration Scheme. The film is also excellent. Totally recommended.
Published 1 month ago by Maggy
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable
This book is an excellent read but very Sad and leaves you feeling very angry at how could this have happened. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Maz
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