The Irene Hill Story
I was born in Scotland on the 10th April 1954 where I lived with my mother Jessie, my father James, two brothers James and Archie, and my sister Kathryn. I was the youngest of four children.
At the age of five my mother passed away with tuberculosis, shortly after her death my father decided we should all start a new life in Newcastle. On arrival my father found it hard to cope so we were put into care and we were to stay there for the next six months to finally return home in early 1960. Every thing was ok for a while, that was up until dad met and married our new stepmother Ada in September 1962. It all went down hill from there and her persistent bullying started, and we were to suffer physical abuse. We all had the bruises to prove it.
Ada was much younger than my father and wanted her own family, not another woman’s. She gave my father the option it was her or us. Unfortunately it was a no contest and we were almost immediately put into care in a catholic children’s home. About a month later Barnardos homes were called in and we were handed over to them. Like lambs to the slaughter we went along, at that time I was only seven years old.
My brothers were sent to Doncaster, my sister and I stayed in Newcastle and we didn’t all meet up again until I was eleven years old. During that period of time away my stepmother gave birth to two daughters. Eventually my two brothers my sister and I were reunited at Barnardos village homes in Barkingside Essex UK. Once we were there we were told we were going to Australia for a holiday with a group of other children. What did I know? It was all very exciting, that was until the plane touched down at Mascot airport, Sydney, Australia. Our little group of nine was split up.
My sister Kathryn and I were sent to a home for girls called Fairfax house, my brothers went to Ladd house. Both homes were in Normanhurst, Sydney. My sister was three years my senior and we didn’t have a lot in common, and by now we were almost strangers. We had come a long way from life with mum and dad in Scotland.
I was to stay in Fairfax house Sydney until I was thirteen. It was then my sister and I were sent to Wollongong, some fifty miles away. We found out that we were to be split up, we didn’t get on, but she was all I had. and it broke my heart. Unfortunately I was to be fostered out to a family that didn’t need a daughter more a maid and some one to help around the home. That’s what I became, their own personal maid.
I thought Cinderella was a fairy tale. I was soon to find it wasn’t. Fortunately for me I only had one step sister. It soon came to the stage where I was frightened to go home from school with the constant scolding, “do this” and “do that” It was a nightmare. Some days I would arrive home from school and all my belongings would be in the middle of the room. I was told to clear it up “or else”. All the time my step sister looked on smiling. For me there was no escape. Where was I to go? There was no way out for me.
As for friends and family there were none. They were not allowed near the house, so it was years before I saw my brothers and sister again. When we did meet up we were strangers. I managed to put up with and survive the abuse until I was seventeen. One day I went to work and never went back, leaving with only the clothes on my back and a few pounds I had managed to save.
My first night of freedom was spent on my own at the local YWCA and was to end up staying there for three months. During that period of time I was working as a machinist in a clothes factory and it was there I met the father of my first son Alan. We set up home together but it wasn’t to last, and after two years we parted company.
A year later I met my new partner and the three of us moved to his home town of Grafton NSW and settled down to family life, or so I thought. I was to have two sons by him, David and Brett. Unfortunately, yet again, I was to suffer years of abuse from the man I thought loved me. Where was I to go? I had three sons. They were my life no one was going to come between us, and so we stayed.
It wasn’t until my boys were well into there teens and quickly moved away from home (I wonder why) I thought about leaving myself, but by then it was to late. I was not in the best of health and it was then that my partner suggested that I signed my half of the house over to him and made threatened me if I didn’t do as he said. To say I was terrified is an understatement. I did what I was told. Shortly after the completion of the house transfer, after years of abuse, and him constantly degrading me I finally plucked up the courage in early 1997 I packed my bags and left.
After half a life time, three men including my father and two partners I was on my own once again. My only life line was my three sons, and to this day we all live close to each other. They are all married and all have caring wives. I am blessed with six grandchildren who I adore.
Later in l997 a call came from the past. It was my brother Archie who informed me my brother James was dying. After being apart for twenty years we all met up in Sydney. Kathryn and I were strangers, Archie was still the same, but older, but then he always was my favourite, and then there was James. What can I say? To meet up after all those years, to watch your brother die, and then we all went our different ways, like strangers in the night. What a waste.
Finally, do I still think of England? The answer is “yes, everyday” of my life. For me it’s too late. My disability and medication restrict me from going anywhere for any length of time. I still have my memories. Although I was only eleven when I left England I can still remember the lush green fields, the early morning mist, those cold winter mornings, the sweet smell of spring, those long warm summers followed by the bright colours of the autumn fall. I shall never forget.
Irene recently added:
“On asking Tony if he could find any think of my past I was to get more than I expected. I Learned that in May 1991 my father died of a massive heart attack. My stepmother, Ada, who is now 72 years old never allowed our names to be mentioned in the household. My father must have been a weak man to allow this. To my surprise Tony has managed to trace my half sisters Melissa born 27/02/1964 (while we were all still in care), and Marilyn born 10/05/1965 one month after our departure to Australia. I have a my half brother, Robert, who was born on 3/05/1973 so, for someone who didn’t like children ????????
I am now in contact with Marilyn and look forward to being in contact with Melissa and Robert all of whom knew nothing of our existence.
Thank you Tony”
Thank you very much for sending me a copy of Pebble on The Beach. My Goodness, you have been through the mill! Well done for all of it and for managing to turn it into a very inspirational read.