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10 June 2014

Jock

Photograph by Ross Swanborough

"I never knew my mum and dad. I was put into an orphanage at birth and never really found out what happened or why my parents did not keep me. The orphanage was Nazareth House in Aberdeen, Scotland, run by a group of nuns called the Poor Sisters of Nazareth, part of the Catholic Church. They were supposed to look after orphaned and disadvantaged children but they were abusive and violent. Even when I was a toddler, I received regular beatings from the nuns. The food was awful and I was always cold and hungry.

When I was 12, the nuns said I was going to be sent to Australia. I had no choice, but I thought it couldn’t be any worse than the orphanage.

How wrong I was! I was sent to Boys Town Bindoon, which is about 80km north of Perth. When I got off the ship in Fremantle, it was stinking hot. There were lots of children from all over Britain on the boat. We were all herded into the back of a truck like cattle and driven off to Bindoon.

It was like a slave camp. I worked on a building site every day in the sun with only a khaki shirt and shorts, no shoes were provided. At night I was beaten many times by the brothers who ran Boys Town. I used to get flogged daily and I was subjected to sexual abuse often. I now have ongoing issues in my life from that experience. I have seen lots of psychiatrists to help with my mental condition.

I used to drink a lot to try to deal with things and I used to smoke 80 cigarettes a day, but I have given all that away. The doctor said I would be dead in a year if I did not stop smoking.

I did get some compensation from Redress WA [a state government scheme to acknowledge abuse towards children in the care of the state] but it was a very small amount.

After leaving Boys Town I worked on farms as a roustabout at first but then I got into shearing. It was the happiest time of my life. The shearers were great people, really nice, and I got on well with them. I travelled all over the place working on farms. I went to Geelong [in Victoria] for a time and met up with a woman, who I later married. We had a daughter and I now have three lovely granddaughters. I was happily married for many years, but we eventually split up and I returned to Perth.

I was basically retired and not doing anything when a friend told me about The Big Issue. It has been great for me. I get out of the house and meet people every day and I am so grateful to everyone who buys a magazine and stops for a chat.

I went back to Geelong recently to meet up with my daughter and her children. Of course, I am a long-time supporter of the Cats [based in Geelong]. I have been to a couple of matches, but now I just follow them on the TV. I sold The Big Issue while I was in Geelong and I really enjoyed it. The people there are great."

Interview by Jim Petrie/ photograph by Ross Swanborough
Jock sells The Big Issue in Leederville, Perth