Margaret Humphreys has spent 23 years campaigning for the victims of forced childhood migration. This week, finally, Gordon Brown is due to apologise on behalf of Britain for separating them from their families.
Next Wednesday, if everything goes to plan, Gordon Brown will rise, approach the dispatch box, and make a short speech to the nation. In the afternoon he will expand upon it – directly, this time, to a group of people who have waited decades to hear what he has to say.
Everyone there will be well acquainted with disappointment. But they can't help hoping that finally a British prime minister will say all the right things: that he will explain exactly why tens of thousands of British children were rounded up, told their families were dead, and shipped off to work in the colonies; that he will offer the help they need to trace and rejoin their lost families; that he will apologise unreservedly.
Perhaps that is one reason why feelings are running so high at the Child Migrants Trust in Nottingham, a cosy house where Margaret Humphreys has spent the past 23 years listening to the stories of child migrants, co-ordinating searches for lost children and lost parents, and making sure they have the support they need once they have found each other – if they ever do. The walls are covered in photographs: children being herded onshore in Australia, just before being separated from siblings and sent to institutions throughout the country; children, quite small, working on building sites; and then those children, grown up, in their 50s and 60s, in tentatively patched-together family groups, learning how to smile together at a camera; or, in one case, kneeling at a grave, the reunion having come too late.
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