On their own - Britain's child migrants

Ian Bayliff – four brothers at Fairbridge

4 young boys in school uniform

"The principal got hold of my brother, took his belt off and flogged him. That was our introduction to Fairbridge Molong on 14 March 1955." Ian Bayliff

Ian Bayliff (8) and his brothers Graham (9), Sydney (10), Stewart Lees (4) at the Fairbridge reception centre Knockholt, Kent, UK in 1955.
Reproduced courtesy Ian Bayliff

Eight-year-old Ian Bayliff and his three half-brothers Sydney, Graham and Stewart Lee migrated to Australia with the Fairbridge Society in 1955. Fairbridge promised them opportunities that were not available at home in Manchester – a good education, plenty of food and clothing, and a healthy farm lifestyle.

Ian found life to be highly regimented at Molong, near Orange, New South Wales. He attended primary school on the farm and performed chores until the age of 14, when he became a trainee on the property’s dairy, piggery and sheep farm.

Ian did not see a future in farm work and ran away from Fairbridge in 1963.

simple metal bowl

Dining at Fairbridge

Fairbridge children ate from metal plates and bowls and drank milk from metal mugs. Porridge and mutton were frequently contaminated with weevils and maggots. Breakfast and lunch were eaten in the central Nuffield Hall, while the cottage mothers served the evening meal in their cottages.

Pudding bowl lent by Ian Bayliff

Letters from Mum withheld

Mrs Bayliff regularly wrote to her four boys, at one point indicating she wanted them back home. Her letters stopped soon after. Ian and his brothers assumed she had forgotten about them – unaware their mail was being intercepted by Fairbridge. Years later Ian found his mother’s desperate letters in his Fairbridge file in London.

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