Mona’s Story

The young 16 year old girl had got a job with the village shopkeeper filling brown paper bags with tea, stocking the shelves and helping the wife in the kitchen. One day the shopkeeper’s son asked her to give him a hand in the store. Soon he had her up against the meal bags and told me he loved me. This was the first of many afternoons in the back store while the son was on holiday from the university. Then the nightmare; sick in the morning and wearing loose clothes to hide her shame. Finally, the discovery that she was pregnant, then the arrival of the Parish priest who took her to one side in the kitchen where he played cards on a Sunday night with the shop keeper and a few well off farmers.

  The priest said to the girl, “I can get the Nuns in Dublin to take care of you until the baby is born and they will provide it with a good home. Then would you think of going to England? This would be the best way for everyone rather than bring trouble on your poor father and mother. How come you did not see the risk you were taking?” The girl said, “He was going on to be a doctor and knew about these things and said I was dead safe.”

    The priest said, “Did you not know child, that a man has strong desires and it is a woman’s place to stop him?” After the baby was born the priest gave her a £20-0-0 note when she was leaving for England and told her to make sure she joined the ‘Legion of Mary’ when she arrived in London.

  This is an extract from a book written by a parish priest who would have had a lot of experience in such matters.



                                                The Paddy Monaghan Story.



                                                  He was some father’s son.


This is one of the most intriguing stories that I have ever come across or been directly involved in. No professional author, never mind an amateur like me, could come up with a fictional story to equal the story of Paddy’s life. I had considered using fictional names to protect identities but I think that would have taken from the story. The fact that Paddy’s relations here in this parish gave him such a genuine warm welcome on his first visit to his mother’s home place convinced me that I should write his story as it was. On the two occasions that I spoke with Paddy, I suggested that his story should be told. He had no objections to this but did not feel competent to compile it himself. It was later on after Paddy had left on his way back to Australia that I realised why he was not enthusiastic about compiling the story himself. Although obviously a very intelligent person he and all the other boys had deliberately been kept uneducated by the Irish Christian brothers in the schools at Clontarf and Tarden near Perth in Western Australia. Paddy is a wonderful and courageous man without a trace of bitterness that one would expect from a person who had suffered such terrible hardship and who survived many terrible experiences in his young life. All who met with him here had most positive views and firm friendships were quickly established.


   Thankfully shortly after Paddy returned to Australia he was interviewed by Fred Rea a journalist with the ‘Irish Scene’ magazine and his story was then published. How did I become involved in this amazing and intriguing story of a young boy who was told that he was an orphan with nobody belonging to him and was sent from the Nazareth Home in Sligo to Australia? During the research into Paddy’s birth and back ground one document was discovered and on the back of the document was written in pencil, ‘Referred by Fr. Connolly, Belleek’. During one of my conversations with Paddy in my home he expressed his amazement that this document had survived and not been destroyed. The reason for this is that very few people look at the back of an official document and so the words remained undiscovered until Paddy started the search for his roots.


As a result of this vital piece of information which had come into the hands of the Child Migrant Trust based in Nottingham, I received a visit from a priest who asked me if I had any knowledge of a Fr. Michael Connolly who had been in Belleek during the 1930’s. Fr. Brendan told me that he was assisting a person in Australia who was tracing family roots. I had very clear memories of Fr. Connolly, the first being that as a young boy in the junior room in Belleek school; this very pleasant priest came on a visit to the class room wearing a white silk scarf and bearing with him a very large tin of sweets. We all were invited to take a handful of sweets from the tin. Naturally the memories of this friendly priest were to remain with me for ever. I had a long chat with Fr. Brendan and recalled many stories about Fr. Connolly. The parish had a considerable amount of good land and Fr. Connolly kept a herd of pedigree shorthorn cattle. Born in the town land of Tullynahinnera, Lough Eglish, Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan he came from a farming background. He became in later years the President of the Irish Shorthorn Breeders Society and was a regular official at the cattle shows in Ballsbridge, Dublin.


During his time in Belleek one of his pedigree cows produced a bull calf. This calf went on to win prizes at the show in Ballsbridge and was so highly placed that it was purchased by the Argentine Government for breeding purposes. He was transferred from Belleek to Ballyshannon in 1939 and later took up the post of Chaplin to the Orphanage in Bundoran where he remained until 1952 when he was appointed to a parish in Co. Monaghan. He became Parish Priest of Tydavenet and died suddenly there in September 1969 at the age of 76.


Patrick Joseph Monaghan was born in Hope Castle Hospital, Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan on Monday 26th April 1937. At that time Hope Castle served as the county hospital for Monaghan and was staffed by an order of nuns. His birth certificate gives his mothers name as Bridget Monaghan, from Scarden, Leggs P.O., Co Fermanagh. It does not give a fathers name. Immediately after the birth of her son Bridget had to sign a prepared document handing over custody of her baby to the nuns. It was on the back of this document that the name of Fr. Connolly was written. One of the documents from the hospital was photocopied and the copy given to Paddy, his mothers name had been changed from Bridget to Maggie. A local family name had been added to give the misleading idea that this person was Paddy’s father. A D.N.A test was carried out with the consent of a family member, this proved to be negative and the name could not be associated with Paddy. All of this was of course highly illegal and another attempt to protect the name of his father.



Mary Anne Monaghan nee Harte wife of William Monaghan uncle of Bridget died on 16th Match 1936 aged 32 years of age. Her death took place just after the birth of her daughter Margaret. Mary and William already had a son aged 2 years and they had a small farm near Ederney. Mary was buried in the family plot of the graveyard of St. Michael’s Church, Mulleek. As curate in the parish Fr. Connolly would have been in charge for the funeral arrangements and so would have been well acquainted with the family. William died 30th October 1980 aged 83 years.

  Bridget discovered that she was pregnant in 1937, it is doubtful if any of her family knew of her situation and certainly none of the neighbours were aware of it. Since the news of Paddy’s existence in Australia became known discreet inquiries from the now elderly neighbours of the family showed that they had never heard of Bridget having a son. It was considered to be a closely guarded secret known only to a very small number of people at the time. Possibly a maximum of three persons, Bridget, the child’s father and Fr. Connolly. It can be assumed that Bridget consulted the priest about her situation. It can also be assumed that the father was a person of influence and substance who could not have his actions exposed and made public. Bridget was 27 years of age when Paddy was born in 1937. Had she had a relationship with an ordinary young country man, she would either have got married to him or as often happened been sent to a home for unmarried mothers to have her baby. It was of the utmost importance that the identity of the father should never be revealed. To ensure that the secret would not be revealed Fr. Connolly made arrangements to have Bridget admitted to Hope Castle hospital near his home town of Castleblaney. He would have been well acquainted with the nuns there for he himself had a sister a nun. There were few cars in the country then and he could have provided the transport for the expectant mother and so ensuring that no other person had any knowledge of the situation. Bridget would have only been absent from home for several days and would not have been missed by her neighbours. After Bridget had signed away her rights to her son, Paddy was fostered out to a family for two years. He was then moved to the Nazareth Home in Sligo on 19th March 1939. This seems a strange move as there were Nazareth Homes in nearby Newry and Dundalk.


  Back at home in Scarden, Bridget had the task of bringing up her niece Margaret, it is easy to imagine the turmoil in her mind and thoughts of her own son not knowing where he was or who was bringing him up. The pressure brought to bear on her and other girls in a similar situation was extreme, they were threatened with all kinds of repercussion both spiritual and social should they tell any one what had happened.


  Paddy remained in Sligo for eight years before being selected to be sent to Australia. I asked him what were conditions like in Sligo, he told me that they were tough but bearable and he was not abused while there. Three other boys who were from Northern Ireland were selected to go to Australia at the same time under a British Government scheme to send orphans to both Australia and Canada. The Irish government refused to partake in this scheme and send any children abroad. This meant a problem in Paddy’s case. Some research was carried out and a priest serving in Scotland was contacted and he verified that Paddy’s mother was from Northern Ireland and so he was cleared to go with his comrades. The four young boys were then sent to the Nazareth Home in Derry where they remained until arrangements were made to have them sent to England. It is very possible that other boys from N. Ireland were with them on the boat to England. The group travelled down through England by train to Southampton where they boarded the SS.Asturias bound for Freemantle, Western Australia, departing in August 1947 and arriving on 22nd September 1947. There were a total of 147 children on board, boys and girls. Not all were from Nazareth Homes; they were from a variety of children’s organisations. Even though Paddy and his friends had spent a number of years in Sligo, a busy sea port they had never seen a ship as they had been confined to the home most of the time and never brought near the coast. It can be taken that some officials accompanied the children on the voyage and that some documentation was provided for each child. For a number of years after the Second World War thousands of children were sent to Australia and Canada by the British government. Some were told that their parents had died and they had nobody belonging to them, this was not true in most cases. Parents were told that their children had died. Paddy and his comrades were sent on an 18 hour train journey to schools at Tarden and Clontarf, which were operated by the Irish Christian Brothers. Here for the next 6 years the conditions and brutal treatment was just a hell upon earth. Like his friends Patrick Monaghan did not know who he was, all he knew was that he came from a country called Ireland. He only knew of two places there – Sligo and Derry. He told me some things about the schools in answer to my questions, strange to say there was no bitterness in Paddy. He told me about Margaret Humphries, the founder of the Child Migrants Trust and a book titled “Empty Cradles” that she had written. As soon as possible I acquired a copy of this book.


Brother Francis Paul Keaney.  (1888 – 1954)

 Irish Christian Brother and Principal of the schools attended by Paddy Monaghan.


Keaney was born in Corralskin, Rossinver, Kiltyclogher, Co. Leitrim. It is remarkable that if one stood on the top of the hill at Scarden and looked southwest over the River Erne and Lough Melvin one could see Rossinver, a distance of less than 10 miles as the crow flies. In 1906 Keaney joined the Royal Irish Constabulary, remaining in the police for three years. He then immigrated to Australia where one of his sisters was a nun. He joined the Australian police and remained in the force for three years when at the suggestion of his sister he became a member of the Irish Christian Brothers.


Publicly Keaney possessed considerable public relation skills that he put to good work in creating a mythology about himself. He had many friends and acquaintances in high places that he wined, dined and conned. There were political and business leaders, heads of government departments and high ranking militarists and church dignitaries. His years of service in two different police forces would have gained him many connections. He was referred to as “Keaney the builder”, as the orphans friend, as the mender of broken lives and other extravagant sobriquets. Such was the admiration if not adulation that he was awarded an M.B.E. and an I.S.O. in 1954 and a statue was erected at Bindoon to his memory in 1957. This was subsequently removed due primarily to pressure from former child migrants. The orphanage he ran at Bindoon was literally built from scratch by the children, who were mainly child migrants sent out from the U.K. Many suffered serious injuries due primarily to unsafe working conditions and physical exhaustion.

Privately, however, a very different man is revealed. No spymaster better concealed his true self, as a latter section will reveal. His actions would have warranted criminal charges had he not operated and exerted influence over the law in Western Australia. He was a big man about 6 feet 3 inches in height, with the neck of a bull, a mop of white hair and rosy face. Former inmates remember him as a brutal disciplinarian with an ungovernable temper, who neglected their education, exploited their labour and turned a blind eye to sexual abuse of them by other members of the staff. An enthusiast, Keaney was easily depressed by criticism. Apparently, it is characteristic of people like Keaney to seek out opportunities for their defiant behaviour. Education was largely denied these boys, as was an adequate diet and protective clothing. Christian love and care was distinguished not by its presence but by its absence. The boys had no shoes when mixing lime and sand for mortar, their feet and legs were burned by the lime. Tragically, there was just no one that the victims could go to for help. Who would have believed them any how? If the boys ran away the police returned them, unbelieving of what they were told. The aura and the power of the church was to strong. This is the environment that Patrick Monaghan and hundreds of child migrants lived in and suffered under. All the information on Brother Francis Martin Keaney is available to researchers on the internet and comes from Australian Government sources. The incidents included here are just samples of the brutality of the regime. The boys were sent out into the world when they reached 16 years of age. Until that age the schools received financial aid for each boy from the government. They were ill prepared and almost completely uneducated to take their place in society.


























The social worker who was given the task of investigating Paddy’s case in Ireland went to the Nazareth Home in Sligo. The note Paddy had brought back from Ireland was the vital piece of evidence that was to lead to the solution to Paddy’s life history. On seeing the note the Child Migrant Trust people told him that the note would now go a long way to finding his mother as it brought Belleek into the picture.


The trust investigated Fr. Connolly and eventually on 11th November 2008, six months after Paddy returned from Sligo, the Nun gave the social worker from the Trust envelopes containing a letter saying, “I hope this will help”.

This is a copy of the letter that changed Paddy’s life.


I Bridget Monaghan give up all claim to my child Patrick Joseph Monaghan and I will give him over in charge of the Sisters of Nazareth, Bishop Street, Derry  from this hence.


Signed Bridget Monaghan,


                     Leggs P.O.,

                        Co. Fermanagh.

                             10th May 1937.



“Fr. Connolly probably dictated the words of the letter and got her to sign it,” said Paddy.

“But when I read the letter I was really pleased to find out that I was still a Monaghan as I felt I always was, but also to find out that my mothers name was Bridget”. It was on the back of this document written in pencil were the words, Referred by Fr. Connolly, Belleek. Note that in Bridget’s address there is no word of Belleek, Leggs Post Office was then directly under the control of the Head Post Office in Enniskillen.

This single piece of paper, which had been in the care of the Sisters for a long time, was  the code that would unlock the mystery of Paddy’s life. With the input and efforts of the Child Migrants Trust, Paddy’s surviving family members were found and approached and asked if they wanted to meet him, which is the norm in these situations. “To my delight my relations who never even knew of my existence said that they would welcome the chance to meet their long lost family member”. Co-ordinated through the Trust, Paddy returned to Ireland again in April of 2009 to meet the relations. With a twinge of regret. He discovered that his mother was still alive in 1997 when he first came back to Ireland and had died in 1999.











                                            The Child Migrants Trust.


The trust was founded in Nottingham in 1987 by Mrs. Margaret Humphries, a former social worker. It offers practical help and emotional support to former child migrants in the form of family tracing and counselling services. Following several visits to Ireland and his unsuccessful attempts to trace his family Patrick Monaghan made contact with the Child Migrants Trust. He was invited to give evidence to the Australian Senate who was conducting an inquiry into conditions in homes for boys run by the Irish Christian Brothers. A number of former inmates were interviewed by members of the Senate on Thursday 15th February 2001.


Time 4-38pm.


Monaghan, Mr. Patrick (Private capacity)


Chair – Welcome, Mr. Monaghan. You have seen the advice on the protection of witnesses and their contributions?


Mr. Monaghan – Yes.


Chair – Thank you, Mr. Monaghan. I note for the record that Mr. Rushbrook from the Child Migrants Trust is accompanying you. You are also aware of our time constraints so I ask you to go directly to making some comments for us.


Mr. Monaghan – I spent 16 ½ years in an orphanage, 10 years in Ireland and 6 ½ years in Australia. I was at Tardun and Clontarf. In Clontarf in 1949 the brothers were very cruel to the boys. One instance was that the Pommie kids, as we used to call them, painted some tyres and the brothers saw the tyres painted and ran amok. They waited until all the kids got under the shower, about 12 kids under the shower at a time, and these two big brothers just grabbed them by the arms and pulled them out and belted them, every part of their body, with their straps. The kids were screaming and yelling, and then they finished up having their showers. The brothers who did that were Doyle and O’Doherty. I am a bit nervous. I was also in trouble. Another time, Brother Doyle caught me after dinner –


Chair – Just take your time; we are happy to wait while you draw your breath.


Mr. Monaghan – Another time, Brother Doyle caught me. My friends had some bantams, two of my friends, and I did not have a share in the bantams. After lunch one day I was in the bantam cage and Brother Doyle came along and caught me in there. He gave me a kick up the backside and said, “On Saturday, you will bring the bantam down and chop its head off in front of the clock tower.” When I told my friends they were not too happy – it was their bantam. On Saturday, after lunch, in front of the clock tower, in front of all the boys, they had their chopping block, the axe, the bantam was brought forward. I broke down and cried and they let the bantam go.


Another time, I had spots on my jumper in Brother Doyle’s classroom and Brother Doyle beat me across the head about 12 times with the strap and then told me to go out and clean myself up. As I was walking out I muttered under my breath, “You f. .  . .ing bastard,” and one of the other brothers either read my lips or hear me. He took me back into the classroom by the ear and told Brother Doyle what I had said. He did not use the strap; he used his fists and his boots. He picked me up and threw from desk to desk. “Insulting my parents,” I just said, “I’ve never met your parents, I don’t know who they are. I never insulted them. How could I insult somebody I never met?”  But I got two black eyes, was belted and bruised. He told me to go and clean myself. The next time I walked straight to the gates, heading to Royal Perth Hospital; I did not know where I was. I asked some old fellow on a push bike, ‘Where’s Royal Perth Hospital?’ and he took me home and put me to bed and gave me a feed and rang up the priests and they came and got me and took me back to Clontarf.


Another brother in Castledare whacked me over the head with a broom. He said ‘Go to work’ I said. I haven’t had any breakfast.’ He said, ‘You’re not having any breakfast’ He chased me across the paddock near Castledare with a piece of three by two. (Timber) He caught me as I got through the fence and broke the piece of three by two on me. There were people building houses across the road who saw this. They rang up the child welfare department. The child welfare department came and got me the next day, and I have a document that says that I came in with an inch and a half split on my scalp. They asked me if this happened all the time. I said, ‘It happens all the time,’ and they just said they could not prosecute the brothers. They said, ‘We couldn’t take the brothers to court.’ They knew the children were getting beaten but were not prepared to do any thing about it.


Chair – Can you tell the committee about when that was or whether there is a record of that?


Mr. Monaghan – I have a thing in my child welfare report that I got a few years ago, and it says I came in with an inch and a half laceration on my scalp, in 1953 when I was 16.


Chair – But does it say, ‘We are unable to prosecute the Christian brothers’?


Mr. Monaghan – I do not know. No, he said it verbally.


Chair – Yes, but it is not written down?


Mr. Monaghan – No, he did not write it down – they wouldn’t be that silly, would they?%3