The James Hill Story
Sadly, James Hill passed away in 1993. He is very much missed by all.
James Hill was born on 16th April 1949, the oldest son to Jessie and James and was followed by his brother Archie and sisters Kathryn and Irene. They all lived a normal and happy life in Scotland. At the age of ten, James mother Jessie passed away after a long battle with Tuberculosis. James being the eldest took it very hard, his mother was the only one who really understood him, and who knew from a very early age that James was different from other boys.
During his mother’s stay in hospital and up until her death, James was relied upon to help look after his brother and two sisters, the youngest being five. At first his father managed to keep things together, but what with the loss of his wife, and looking after four children it became too much for him. So, all four children were put into care. James, being older, was to find it harder then the others because he was different and as he was only eleven years old he didn’t understand such things. As far as he was concerned he was the same as all the other boys.
After a short stay in care, all four returned to the family home. They then moved to Newcastle to start a new life with their father.
Two years later, his father met and married his new wife to be Ada, the new stepmother. She was much younger and had no interest at all in her new instant family. And that’s when the ridiculing and abuse started. In James’ case it was the name calling, saying he wasn’t normal and that he needed psychiatric help. During all this time his father wouldn’t have any of it, as far as he was concerned his son was no different from any other lad in the park.
It was shortly after that Ada got her own way and all four children were put into care, as you all will know from reading his sister Irene’s story.
In March 1965, they were all on their way to Australia, supposedly to start a new life.
James was just sixteen when he arrived in Australia and knew from an early age he was gay which, back in the 60’s and early 70’s, was totally taboo and not excepted. And like many others James was told he would “grow out of it”.
Shortly after his arrival the powers that be sent him to a work farm, to become a man, but after a short and agonising three months he returned to Sydney. On his arrival back he was found accommodation and sent out into the world along with the rest of us. There was no chance to learn a trade or gain a career. You just had to take the best paid job you could, just to survive, but then it was never enough.
But for James it would be harder, as his sexuality was against him but somehow he managed to keep his secret, going from job to job changing his accommodation almost as frequently, but he was the sort of guy who would put his hand to anything be it carpentry, building, mechanics, and even worked as roadie for bands in the early days. James was an all rounder and could turn his hand to anything.
Eventually James found himself a partner and moved in with him, things began to look up. It was short lived however, and he moved on. But he was never short of friends to call upon.
In the early 70’s James was to make two new acquaintances, Paul Cole and Jeff Collins and they became life long friends, each understanding what the other was going through. They laughed and cried together and Paul even shared his family with James. Paul’s mother became his adopted mother and they shared many happy times together. At weekends they would often all go out in Sydney harbour, together, on Paul’s boat “THE BERYL”. Sometimes James would take her out himself even though he’d never learnt to swim, he did promise to learn one day.
In the late 70’s and 80’s the gay scene in Sydney was in full swing and is now one of the gay capitals of the world. So at last James could be himself for the first time in his life.
But along with the gay scene came it’s problems and in l990 James was diagnosed as HIV positive. But he wasn’t going to take it without a fight. The first thing he did was to go out and buy himself a camper-van and toured Australia, and on his return to Sydney he purchased his dream car, – a 1968 Rover P5B in admiral blue a real classic. The car gave him many months of pleasure. At that time James was living with his now constant companion Paul. He was to stay there until his death on the 24th September 1993. He was only forty four years old.
Tony said: On speaking to Paul he told me:
“Jimmy, that’s what we called him. Well what can I say, he was my best friend, and my sole mate and laughed right up to the end. He never talked about his mother or his father, it was like they never existed. I only know he’d been dealt a bad hand in life and bluffed his way though life. I’ll give you an instance of his humour. During the last weeks with us he insisted on arranging his own funeral, with my help. We called in the funeral parlour. On the chaps arrival he was all solemn and quiet. Jimmy just came out and asked how much a cardboard box would cost and we both burst out laughing. Our friend didn’t see the funny side, but that was Jimmy. He lived everyday to the full and at the end he opened his eyes and smiled. I knew it was time to say farewell to an old friend, I miss him like crazy. There will never be another Jimmy. I keep his ashes close to hand and think of him daily I even named my boat “THE JIMMY HILL” after him. There will never be a substitute for the real thing So Jimmy wherever you are mate you’re not forgotten.”
I would just like to just add that because of the wisdom of the British and Australian Governments in the intention to colonise Australia many suffered.
Here is a family of four children, the Hill family, who were sent to Australia. They were split up and left to fend for themselves. James has passed away, Kathryn is missing, Irene had a life you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, and Archie says it’s all too painful to talk about.
These are just four of the stories, out of thousands, of children sent overseas.
These four brothers and sisters know that if they had stayed in England, they might have been sharing Christmas and Birthdays together. They would have got together for family events such as going to marriages of sons and daughters. They would have been a family.
But because their father gave up and signed them away to a life thousands of miles away everything they had known and grown to love was turned upside down.
So the first thing the authorities did on the arrival of these young children was to split them all up, and send them different ways. They were left to grow up as total strangers to each other.
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.