The Paddy Monaghan Story

Your news and entertainment out post for all things Irish from Perth to Dublin.

The Australian Irish Scene.

“ I was never going to give up”.

Written by Fred Rea.                   Tuesday 18th August 2009. 11-36.


(left: Paddy by the river near his Irish family home) 
Try to imagine it. You are a ten year old boy and all your life has been spent living in an orphange in Sligo. Then one night, almost out of the blue, you are moved to Derry before being put on a ship that takes you to an unknown port in England followed by a train ride to Southhampton and another ship.

“We were told that we were going away on holiday but not where,” said Paddy. “Before this we’d never seen a ship or even hardly knew what a ship was. We spent a month onboard and actually it was a lovely time for us, with the children playing on the decks.”
Asturias, including its cargo of orphans who were used to the cold and rain of Ireland, docked in the heat of Fremantle Harbour on 22 September 1947. From there the children were  taken to Clontarf to be divided up and sent to various different orphanges/schools in WA.Paddy, and around 30 pals, were sent to Tarden by steam train on an 18 hour journey. Over the next six years or so he was transferred between Tarden and Clontarf, working as a farm hand.

At the age of sixteen and a half the time came for him to leave the orphanage. “They got me a job down in the south west in the town of

Wagin. I was there for a few months but I was unsettled and worked all over, but never settled,” said Paddy.“Like most of the kids from Tarden and Clontarf I was in and out of work and spent time working on farms and stations. We had no family life and it was very difficult to keep in contact with your mates from school because you didn’t know where they went and there was no access to telephone.”

That situation improved he said in Geraldton where he would often meet friends and even found work that suited him. After working in a Crayfish factory in Geraldton for a year and a half he went deckhanding for another three years, before buying his own Cray boat – the Seamus 1. He worked that boat for another 10 years before buying a second vessell – the Seamus 11.

It was around this time that Paddy’s remarkable journey to discover more about himself and his background really began. “I got married when I was 28, which is when I started looking for any family I might have,” he said.

“I was told by the Christain brothers that I didn’t have a living soul in the world, that all my family were dead. So I believed that and gave up at that point. For me, I thought that was an end to it,” added Paddy.

These events took place in the 1960’s and any thoughts of further investigation would probably have remained there as well except for a chance encounter with a member of the Child Migrant Trust some twenty years later.

“I had begun looking for my family in 1965 and it was the early 1980’s when the Trust started its own search on my behalf.”
With the encouragement and support of the Trust, Paddy returned to

Ireland – for the first time in 50 years – in 1997.
“It felt glorious to be back home in
Ireland after half a century but the only thing was that I didn’t have anyone there to meet me.”
He began his search by returning to the same orphanage in
Sligo when he had spent most of his childhood in Ireland.“It was still there, just as I remembered it. Its now a home for old folks and a lot of the grounds have been changed over the years but it was definetly the orphanage and still in the hands of the Order that ran it before,” he added.

“I told a nun who I was and asked if they had any records. They were scared and nervous about my request. It was around this time that all the trouble started and revelations about abuses were coming out. I came back from

Ireland on that occasion no better off than before as I didn’t get anymore information.”Undefeated Paddy would go on to make a pilgrimmage back to

Ireland every second year after this first unsuccessful visit.“My wife came with me and we always went to the orphanage to ask if they had any more information, but we were always told no, no, no,”

Because he was getting older and felt the possiblity of any clues leading to a discovery was becoming very remote Paddy intended to make his visit of 1998 his final trip to the homeland. “All my mates and life were in WA and there seemed to be nothing to bring me back much more. But I made this trip with some friends.”

It was an eventful visit, but not always for the right reasons. In a late development it seemed that Paddy was not in fact a Monaghan at all and was actually from a family known as Murone. The new lead opened up new problems and possiblities

‘My baptismal certificate had been altered and according to a genelogical researcher in Drogheda I was defintely a Murone but when I asked her to prove it, she couldn’t.”
Paddy and friends went to Belleek, Co. Fermanagh in search of more evidence of the Murone family. The search could have taken them as far as

America where a woman who could have been his mother was thought to be buried.“We asked if we could have a sample of her DNA for testing and matching with my own, but the lawyer, who was the trustee of her estate refused us permission, which is probably just as well thank god.”

The importance of Belleek to Paddy’s story seemed for the moment to be nothing more than a random connection with a remote location.
But the Co. Fermanagh town reappeared in an unlikely way in a familiar place for Paddy.

Following this episode he returned to the orphange in

Sligo, with very low expectations.
“We had a ball of a time with the nun who said she would take a look at the files, and she came out with a note saying ‘recommended by Fr Connolly of Belleek’ and saying thats all she found and hoping that it would be of some help.”Paddy brought the note back to

Australia and took in to the Child Migrant Trust who told Paddy that this note now will go a long way to finding his mother as it brought Belleek into the picture.The trust investigated Fr Connolly and eventually on

November 11th  2008, six months after Paddy returned from Sligo, the Nun gave a lady from the Trust a envelopes with a letter saying “I hope this will help”.  (See letter below). “Fr Connolly probably dictated the words of the letter for my mother 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 mother’s name was Brigid.”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 Migrant 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 rellies – 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.Despite the lost chance to ever knowing his mother, her niece, who still ran the family farm in Co. Fermanagh gave him a reception to be remembered.

“They threw a big party at the farmy for my 72nd birthday, we went on a barge and they even made a huge cake for me and there were a few whiskey’s as well, it was marvellous” said Paddy.

What he also found was that he had a network of cousins and relations in

Ireland and the UK and he was able to spend a few weeks visiting them all. Now he is preparing for some of them to come out to Australia later this year.“I feel good now,” he says. “I’m happy that some of the family will be visiting in September. Its also great to know that after so long and so much trouble that I am not alone. I had eight friends from my orphange days who also went looking for their families. I was the last of the group to find them and I was almost at the point of giving up any hope.”

The enduring support of The Child Migrant Trust , Paddy’s friends here in WA and in

Ireland,  as well as his mates from Clontarf and Tarden kept him going he said.“This story has come to the conclusion I always felt it would and to tell you the truth, I was never going to give up. I now even have rellies here in

Perth I never knew about!”
Paddy’s story is one of many of these kids sent to
Australia from the 40’s on and there are still many who are still looking. We hope this story will give them the courage to continue looking and bring a conclusion to their lives.We are grateful to Paddy for telling this story to our readers and share with him and his many mates the joy in finding his extensive family has brought to his life.
Fred Rea



 See also Mona’s story.