New book chronicles sad loss of childhood

New book chronicles sad loss of childhood

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Marjorie Arnison was one of the thousands of children removed from their families, communities and country and placed in a British colony or commonwealth to provide “white stock” and cheap labour.
In Marjorie’s case, she was sent to Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School, just north of Victoria, BC in 1937. As a child, Patricia Skidmore (Marjorie’s daughter) was angered that her mother wouldn’t talk about the past. It took many years to discover why — it wasn’t because she was keeping a dark secret, but because she had “lost” her childhood.
For 10-year-old Marjorie, forgeting her past, her family, and England was the only survival tool she had at her disposal to enable her to face her frightening and uncertain future. A new book, “Marjorie: Too Afraid to Cry,” is her account of what happened. It is a story of fear, loss, courage, survival, and finding one’s way home.
“This is a story of not just loss but of engagement between a mother and daughter trying to recover and record a personal journey that affected three generations,” said author Geoffrey Sherington. “It will stand as a testimony to understanding the effect of separation from home and family on thousands of British child migrants sent to Canada and Australia.”
Marjorie is at home now on Tucelnuit Drive, and she has a few copies of the book for sale. Her phone number is 250-498-2836.
Skidmore said she is hoping to get to Oliver sometime early in the new year to organize a book reading at the public library.
Skidmore was born in Vancouver and spent most of her childhood growing up in Coquitlam. For her, being a daughter of a child migrant was a shameful and often worrying experience. She didn’t feel that she belonged. There was no sense of family and no roots to ground her to her place of birth. Her mother’s background, her past, her childhood, and her family were missing, and her mother would not tell her why. It worried her deeply.
Her mother rarely spoke of her five years at the farm school or why she was sent there as a little girl. It took Skidmore well into her adult years to confront the issue — child migration and the role her family played in it — and try to understand it.
Today she is actively involved with the Fairbridge Canada Association (FCA) and its various programs: the Fairbridge Gazette and the Fairbridge Alumni Bursary Society, which was formed by former Fairbridge child migrants who were sent to the school. She also maintains the Fairbridge Canada Association website, www.fairbridgecanada.com.
Skidmore left the area of her youth in 1967, vowing never to return, and she raised her three sons on and around the small islands of Vancouver Island. But, never say never. Today she lives in Port Moody, right next door to where she grew up.

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