Child migrant: Finding family existed was 'like lottery win'

  • Published
Old man with walking stickImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The 85-year-old man told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry that he thought he was an orphan

A child migrant who spent a lifetime in Canada thinking he was an orphan has told that discovering his family was like owning a "a $50m lottery ticket".

The man, who is 85, told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry that he believed he was all alone in the world.

He told lawyers that he was sent to Canada at the age of 10 from a UK orphanage.

But his carers at the Fairbridge charity did not tell him he had siblings.

They also failed to pass on letters to him from his grandmother.

The man also revealed he was sent to a farm school in Vancouver Island and hated it as he was picked on and bullied.

'Big shock'

Giving evidence to the inquiry, the man - who can only be identified by the name Scott - said his son started to trace his family tree two years ago.

He also recalled how his son discovered he had relatives scattered across the world.

Scott said: "It blew it off the face of the earth. I do live. I do exist. I do have family.

"I have relatives. They live in Australia, in the States, in South Africa, in Canada, on the east coast.

"I thought I was all alone. It was a real big shock.

"I'd say it was like being broke all your life and then you buy a lottery ticket and it's a $50m lottery ticket."

Scott was giving evidence at the inquiry which is based in Edinburgh and is being heard before judge Lady Smith.

The inquiry is currently hearing evidence about the abuse of children who were sent to Canada, Australia and New Zealand from Scotland as part of the historical child migration scheme.

Image source, Nick Mailer
Image caption,
The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is being heard before Lady Smith

Scott told the inquiry that his family had links with Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire.

He said that he was sent to an institution run by the Fairbridge charity at the age of three and migrated to Canada in July 1945, when he was 10.

Scott told the counsel to the inquiry Colin MacAulay QC that he was originally going to be sent to Australia.

However, his carers decided to send him to Canada after another boy failed a medical.

Scott said that his carers didn't allow him to speak to family members.

'No verbal contact'

He added: "Fairbridge told us there would be no verbal contact with our relatives. They weren't to contact us and we weren't allowed to contact them."

The inquiry heard that Scott's grandmother wrote to the charity seeking information about how he was doing in Canada.

But his carers didn't tell him about this and he never received his grandmother's communications.

Staff also didn't tell him about his other relatives.

He said: "I never saw her. I never got her letters."

Scott's 42-year-old son - who can only be identified as Brian - was curious about his past and started tracing the family tree in 2018.

Brian told the inquiry: "He was blown away by it all. He had seven to eight siblings and he didn't know about them for 80 years."