Some orphanage carers were admirable (letter)by Greg O'ReganNews Weekly
, November 28, 2009
There is no doubt that many of those who, as children, spent years in an orphanage, will be comforted by healing services and official apologies. Whatever the circumstance of those people, they do not seem to have been as lucky as I was.
In the 1940s, I was placed in two orphanages beyond Parramatta, west of Sydney, which then was deemed "country". Judging from the numbers of men who return each year for reunions at these homes, I am far from being the only one who affectionately recalls those orphanage days.
There was a world war raging and society was in upheaval. Many of the boys were foundlings and many were from broken families that needed respite in a society that blamed the poor for their problems and harshly punished the disadvantaged and those who broke marital conventions.
The times were hard, with rationing and shortages. Somehow, the Sisters of Mercy and the Marist Brothers were able to furnish hundreds of us with regular meals, warm beds, sports, education, music, and the example of their own lives of selflessness. Neither home was a place of shame. They were where your gang of mates and friends were.
The Sisters of Mercy were, without exception, our "mothers"; and, like true sons, we caused them needless worry as we grew to the age of 10 and transferred to bother the Marist Brothers.
They, in conjunction with the St Vincent de Paul Society, ran the Boys' Home at Westmead. The home sat opposite the showground, now the site of Westmead Hospital, and housed about 250 boys in primary, secondary and apprenticeships. It was also famous for its touring brass band.
I recently visited those kind men and women to thank them for taking me to their hearts in the '40s and teaching me so much. They lie in simple graves in North Rocks and Field of Mars cemeteries. They have no need to apologise.Greg O'Regan,