Today, I welcome Liza Perrat to the blog, with a little background on her new release. Like me, Liza settled in a new country. She became an Australian/French hybrid and writes eloquently about the history of both countries in her descriptive fiction. Today, she’s talking about The Lost Blackbird, based on a story I’m ashamed I never knew.
A True-life Crime Story by Liza Perrat
As I’m sure you all know, JJ Marsh writes highly entertaining crime stories featuring her lovable main character, Beatrice Stubbs. And when I came to write this post about my newly-released novel, The Lost Blackbird, I realised my story also deals with a crime. A true-life crime for which the perpetrators were never punished. A crime for which the victims –– the child migrants and their families –– have suffered long-term, far-reaching and ongoing effects.
In the latter part of the 20th century, over a period of about forty years, thousands of British parents were persuaded to sign over legal guardianship of their children to solve the problem of child poverty in Britain while populating the colony. Some parents were not even consulted, their children being shipped across the world without their consent or even knowledge.
Supposedly going to a better life, these children –– some as young as three-years-old –– suffered physical, mental and physical abuse. They were unloved, lonely, half-starved, worked like slaves and denied a decent education.
However, it wasn’t until 1986 that this scandal was exposed when Nottingham Social Worker, Margaret Humphreys, received a letter from a woman claiming she’d been shipped to a children’s home in Australia at the age of four, and wanted help finding British relatives.
The scale of the child migration was exposed: up to 150,000 children had been shipped from British children’s homes to a “new life” in distant parts of the Empire.
In 1987, Margaret Humphreys established the Child Migrants Trust which aims to reunite child migrants with their families, as well as establishing their personal identity.
The Lost Blackbird is a work of fiction but it does reflect the cold, harsh fact of this shameful perversion of justice. Such a story cannot have an entirely happy ending but in my fictional characters I hope to have captured –– apart from their sadness, losses and grief –– a little hope and joy too.
Liza grew up in Australia, working as a general nurse and midwife. She has now been living in France for twenty-seven years, where she works as a part-time medical translator and a novelist.