First published autobiography of a female ‘child
migrant’. Flo, aged seven in 1928, was sent involuntarily - like
thousands of children from Britain to Australia - to add to ‘good white
stock’, even though she had relatives willing to care for her in
“This poignant book adds another
dimension to the thousands of children who were brought here, often
unaware they had parents and siblings, to fill an empty land.”
Perth Sunday Times
“Flo is to be congratulated on
her persistence in documenting her life.” Writers Voice, NSW
Good reviews in major Australian Press, including the
Canberra Times: ‘We all know about the Dunera boys but we need to
learn more about the Flo Hicksons’.
“Flo’s narrative is as
convincing as it is decidedly out of the ordinary. A very real person
emerges whose hardships never made her bitter, and it is not surprising
that the book was well revieved. Not merely were Liverpool signing
sessions successful, but the Lord Mayor held a private reception as a
symbolic homecoming for Flo, who travelled specially from Down Under for
her book’s publication.” Writers
My mother was pregnant and there were
terrible arguments all the time. She used to roam the streets at night
to get away from him . . .
It was as we boarded the ship that
someone took my doll away. It was made of celluloid and I was told I
could not take it to Australia as it would burst into flames and start a
bushfire. I cried, I had nothing left.
. . . or had she [Cottage Mother]
suddenly decided to find fault with me (she used to do this with me and
the other girls) and she would look until she could find something to be
really cruel about. I was shaken awake and told I was a slovenly girl
while being boxed around the ears and pushed roughly.
She [Head Matron] sat herself on a
chair at the end of the bath, while we all stood there naked and, one by
one, lined up and standing beside the bath, we would wet the soap and,
shiveringly, soap ourselves all over.
I told Cathy the real truth for leaving
and she told me the real truth of the small rabbit fur cape she had
around her shoulders. She too was being used by the man of the house . .
I did not return to Fairbridge until
June 1987, to what I thought was going to be a joyful reunion . . .
Instead, as I walked into the Church of the Holy Innocents, the wall
that was around my heart broke as the horror of so many children being
deprived of home and country was brought home to me.
Hickson during a book signing at Dillons in Liverpool. She spoke on
Merseyside, Nottingham, National, World Service and New South Wales
Radio about her book.
Flo: Child Migrant from
Liverpool was used in evidence about child
migrants given to Government Enquiries in both the UK and in Australia.
After her book’s publication,
other women who were once child migrants wrote to Flo, or to Plowright
Press, expressing joy that she was brave enough to speak out. The
following extract is from an article about Flo Hickson by Ruth I. Johns
which appeared in Caduceus Magazine, issue 47:-
“There are women child migrants who still cannot
talk of their childhood to their spouses and children. It is felt to be
too shameful, sometimes by their spouses, sometimes by themselves. I
have letters to prove this. It may be hard to understand such continuing
personal silence now that we are all supposed to understand more about
the harm of institutionalised upbringings and that they never were, or
are, the fault of the children. But such is the power of a culture of
fear which silences. Some, who are still silent, feel that, by telling
her truth, Flo is a beacon for them.
“For example, the daughter of a child migrant wrote
for a copy from Western Australia. Her mother, who was also brought up
at the Fairbridge Farm School, Pinjarra, had six children, five of whom
(including herself) were adopted. She has not found her mother but Flo’s
book will help to fill in some of the background of her missing mother’s
childhood, and perhaps help the daughter to understand why her mother
let go of five of her children to adoption. Flo’s story explains
eloquently why so many ex-Fairbridge girls had difficult relationships.”