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philip

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Feb 15 12 10:29 PM

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In 2001, I received my NCH file, in those days there were very little black lining done to the content, I believe I received my entire family content.
My mother having recently died, there had been no reason for any removal of her part of the content, nor had the early information by a living aunt and uncle that had been the original force for me going into a branch of the NCH been removed.

What was in the file did make me  little angry, but much of it was looking at how things were talked about in the mid 1960s compared with the thoughts of today.
"Philip had not shown any unusual behaviour, although he is the only coloured boy in the school."
and
"
He seemed a very likeable little boy, and is only lightly coloured."
This and other comments made me want to show others how times had changed in child care over a period of thirty years.
My answer was the site   www.theirhistory.co.uk
Originally it just contained the content of each page of my file and a few comments from me as to how I saw each document, plus a few photographs.

After a little time I received contact with others who had been both in Harpenden and other branches, a few contact bits of information were added plus more photos.
That site now contains quite a vast history on the NCH and its various branchs.

I was then told of a small MSN (Microsoft) contact group on Ex NCH members, which I soon joined, and eventually took over the day to day running of.
This went on for several years until MSN decided not to run the groups any more.
Many of these talk groups moved to a new company, possibly overloaded with the hundreds of thousands of messages and all the old MSN data, we found the service grinding to a halt very often.

I found another NCH branch that had started on a group run by Lefora,  the Alverstoke branch  http://nchalverstoke.lefora.com/  seemed to be a good format for a site, so I added a new contact group, under the name  http://growingupinthench.lefora.com/  from that point this NCH group on Lefora is how you all now make new friends and meet old ones again.

Thanks to you all for adding content and keeping our group going

Philip: A Strange Child   - as the NCH thought of me.  

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#1 [url]

Feb 16 12 8:40 PM

Hi Philip!
Thank YOU for all you have done and do in establishing and keeping this forum going!  Also for the very extensive NCH archives in your theirhistory site.  I can imagine it's a lot of work, and a lot of dedication.  As has been mentioned by Roger, Jennifer and others recently, it's been great to have this place to share about my experiences as a child in an NCH branch, and remember the people who looked after me, the friends I made, the times I had.  For some of us, there was little if any support from our families of origin, so what the NCH gave me was invaluable. And no, it wasn't perfect.  But in my "wise" old age, I've come to realize that "good enough" is the same as infinitely good! :-)   I'm thankful (and always will be!)  for the wonderful grounds at Harpenden, the stability of the life there, Sister Cora's care, many of the other sisters, too, the wonderful music at the chapel, the care for our physical health, the infinite variety of people amongst the other children and the staff, and just the basic fact that I survived, which I might not have without all these. 
Best,
Shelagh

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dave

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#2 [url]

Feb 16 12 9:49 PM

Hi Philip,

Yes I am still alive, just been lurking for a while.

I can't add anymore to what Shelagh has already said other than to say how glad I was when I first came across the groups you managed and set up.

Cheers
Dave

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#3 [url]

Feb 16 12 10:45 PM

Philip, 


I find the preoccupation with "colour" in your file quite extraordinary, since the NCH Homes I attended, and I feel sure, the great majority of Branches, had children of every nationality, race, colour and creed within their care. I well recall any suggestion of racial prejudice being vigorously slapped down. The fixation of the Harpenden authorities on the subject seems decidedly myopic. It was not a general  attitude. I can well understand your blood pressure rising when you first read your records.


Roger.




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philip

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#4 [url]

Feb 16 12 11:54 PM

Roger,
The matters over my colour and race were matters mentioned outside the walls of Harpenden. The first was before I entered Harpenden and were more based of the views of Highbury. The other one was the Child Care Officer (now called a Social Worker) in conversation with  headmaster.
In the grounds of Highfield I found no matters of race whatsoever, if I experienced matters of race, they were only positive and possibly unique as to the make up of the flats, as the other three boys in flat were  Black African, West Indian and White/West Indian, so a half-cast Indian English mix slotted in to the flat quite easily, however outside the safe grounds of Highfield race matterswere different.

Philip

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royl

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#5 [url]

Feb 16 12 11:57 PM

Hi Roger,
                   The mention of 'colour' by the authorities only demonstrates how unusual a child of colour would be at that time and in that environment.   I agree that we had a mixture of children but at Highfield and at Harpenden in general at my time they were all white children.   Harpenden was and still is, an expensive place in which to live which meant that immigrants could rarely afford to live in the area. The mix for us was with the German children who integrated so well that one really accepted the unusual speech just as you would other children with regional accents.   In the late fifties and early sixties people of colour were only just becoming less remarkable in London so I think would still have been unusual and the more remarkable in the sticks. 

Roy

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#6 [url]

Feb 17 12 7:07 AM

 We were pretty much out in the sticks at Harrogate, but I remember several 'coloured' and mixed  race children of varying hues.  But just as you say about the German children with their funny accents Roy,  we accepted children of different colours and assumed they were just one of us.

Jennifer

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malsal

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#7 [url]

Feb 17 12 11:45 AM

Hi All, I don't know why are we discussing colour and creed it didn't matter then and it doesn't matter now .a child is a child  and a person is a person .I want a car I don.t care what colour as long as its a good one   .Malc S    

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royl

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#8 [url]

Feb 17 12 4:24 PM

Hi Malsal,

                 I did not intend to discuss colour per se but how it was percieved in the days of yore.  Things which these days would not draw any comment were fully noteworthy then. I think that we 'ome kids can be grateful for our upbringing in this field and proud of our level of absorbtion and practiice of it.

Roy

ps Philip has a big black fuel guzzler with a dent in the wing he might sell.


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#12 [url]

Feb 17 12 9:53 PM

Hi All, I don't know why are we discussing colour and creed it didn't matter then and it doesn't matter now .a child is a child  and a person is a person .I want a car I don.t care what colour as long as its a good one   .Malc S    

-malsal


As Roy says, we are not discussing "colour" per se, but trying to elicit the reason why the subject  should have made its appearance in Philip's file. This is a perfectly valid point for debate.


Roger.

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#13 [url]

Feb 24 12 11:08 AM




Roger, Malsal,
Philip has highlighted a problem that needs facing up to. Latent, perhaps unwitting racism was about in the 50s and 60s, even in the NCH. In my personal file were comments by the sister-in-charge which account for much of the racist verbal bullying I experienced in the Home, by which I mean she must have made her views/prejudices known to the other children in her care. At five years of age, I apparently refused to take part in football games, or any other team games, a response in an infant which sister put down to my possible Chinese parentage ("a race known for being stubborn"; I have high cheek bones). This kind of comment in the file occurs over the years I was with her at Whitby. That I had had no contact with other children until I was four never seems to have occurred to sister as a reason for my timidity. My parents were white-British, as I later discovered but a fact unknown to the NCH, which if I had known at the time might have spared me years of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with my self. But being on the receiving end of racial taunts as a child gave me, I should like to think, a lifelong sensitivity to issues of race in the UK. There was racism at Harpenden NCH in the 50s, which I remember vividly, though it never extended, as far as I know, outside the Home: we defended each other at school and in the Village. Philip, thanks for maintaining this site, and thank you also for bringing our reminiscences back to the colder reality some of us recall all too clearly.
Les.


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royl

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#14 [url]

Feb 24 12 2:29 PM

Hi   Les,
     When were you transferred to Highfield?     I see that you found racism there but it was something of which I was totally unaware and am most sorry that you should have experienced. I left Highfield in 1954.

Roy

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#15 [url]

Feb 25 12 10:44 AM


Hello, Roy,
I was at Harpenden in the second half of the 50s. I didn't want to overstate the situation for us children; I wished to suggest that the image of fun-loving sunshine days that might be gained from reading most contributions to our site is not how I remember those times. For example, I found Mr Shutt unpleasant and insensitive, keen to foster acolytes. On the other hand, Mr Roycroft was a breath of fresh air (sorry, Philip), and I am grateful that I was able to acknowledge his wife's encouragement when I met her on the open day before Harpenden closed.
Whatever my misgivings about how we were sometimes treated, I think overall we were well cared for. That one middle-aged woman coped with a 'family' of twelve children of both genders, whose ages ranged from one to fifteen, is a miracle of self-sacrifice that deserves greater publicity.
Les.

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#16 [url]

Aug 16 12 10:44 AM

Hi All. 
I was in 2 NCH homes. First was Penarth, where I was so naughty that I was sent to Harpenden.
This was about 1956-1963.
Never once did I notice any prejudice over colour or creed. All the kids were my family, brother & sisters.

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