On their own - Britain's child migrants

Dick Shepherd


Kingsley Fairbridge Memorial, Umtali. Reproduced courtesy Peter Gould.

Listen to an interview with former child migrant Dick Shepherd.

Dick was sent to the Rhodesia Fairbridge Memorial College in January 1947. Listen to him talk about how he felt returning to Britain after many years away.

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Transcript

What I had there was a far greater pleasure and benefit to me than anything which I would have had this end. I mean I was married, I had three children, we were developing.

For a large portion of that actually I was working for the Government. First of all, the Government of... oh gosh what was it, the Government of Rhodesia, then it was the Government of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, then it was the Government of Zimbabwe, I worked for all three of them doing the same job, teaching agriculture to blacks in the tribal areas. I thoroughly enjoyed those years too. They were thoroughly enjoyable years.

Having sort of left the country with nothing I eventually did get support here but it was very, very difficult to get it. There are or could be people from that country coming back to this country even more destitute than I was. At least I had a sister to stay with who supported me and kept me going for the six months it took me to get into the system.

But I can see people coming back here who literally will get to Heathrow and they won’t even have the money for a bus fare. And quite what they do, well I’ve told them to contact me now because if they do then I shall be onto the Child Migrant Trust immediately and say well something has got to be done, they can’t go through the same situations I had.

I was a little horrified the other day actually to see in the paper again that a foster parent of a juvenile, unaccompanied juvenile or something in the country, the foster parent was getting £400 a week for looking after this girl or something in London. You know the total for me for a week is just a fraction over £200 for myself and my wife. You know, I don’t know, something just doesn’t seem to make sense somewhere.

A person in Social Security said that I should have applied for refugee status when I came into the country, I should have applied for asylum at my port of entry you know and I had a British passport and was born in Bootle, which didn’t make sense to me at all but you know we eventually got over that by involving Child Migrant Trust and involving the local MP. But it went to an appeal tribunal before I was given Income Support.

It’s a massive difference from when I left or from what I remember of when I left. I cannot understand why there is so much, which to my mind just going around and talking to people and asking, are minority views being imposed on the majority of the people in this country. You know it’s, for want of a better word, loony views that are coming off and being thrust down people’s throats who don’t want it.

There was a thing in the paper the other day where somebody got up and made what, from the odd things which I remember reading about Hyde Park Corner, you could more or less say whatever you wanted to there and nothing would happen. And now if you dare mention what certain people think is politically incorrect you suddenly have the police breathing down your neck, are you stirring up racism or are you stirring up this or you know you can’t do that. Why? It’s not the view of the majority of the people in this country as far as I’m concerned, not from me asking around the place. The free speech seems to have gone out of the board.

The local Bobby to me, all he’d got to do is look at me from 50 yards away and I had a halo around my head, I mean you just did not do anything wrong. And now, the youngsters now today they don’t seem to worry about the police at all. I don’t know, it’s just... something seems to have gone wrong somewhere in the time I’ve been away from this country.

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