Friday, 31 December 2010

Information about Father Flint ...can anyone help?

I received an email recently from Julie McNeill who lives in Queensland, Australia. Julie is not related to me but follows my blog as she was born in Selly Oak in Birmingham and has published her own family history blog called:


A work-in-progress of the roots and branches of this life handed on from the journey of mothers before me, so the future doesn't forget....

The story of the maternal line of Julie’s family in the 20th century is in parts sad, powerful and compelling reading from a personal and social history viewpoint and I am certain that there will parts of the story which will be familiar to other people both in the UK and Ireland, as well as in Australia, Canada and other countries which received child migrants.

Thank you to Julie for her permission to publish some of her email and also to tell some of the story here on my blog.

Julie emailed:

“I follow your Brummie tree blog and was wondering if you know anything or can direct me to information or photographs of Father William Flint, later Canon, who was Administrator of Father Hudson’s Homes at Coleshill.

On my Inheritance blog following the history of my Grandmothers arrival in Ladywood in 1940, she was resident at a Hostel in Monument Road, working as a Metal Machinist at Handsworth and pregnant and single.

My mum, her baby, would be 'organised' by Father Flint up to her transportation to NSW. You will see letters from my Nan to him in the processes.

I would appreciate any insight or comment to what I have done so far, from afar...

Julie McNeill


St.John's Orphanage, Thurgoona NSW

Kathleen Clarke 3rd row down 5th from right
The Story in brief

Julie’s grandmother, Kathleen Clarke was an orphan, whose mother had died in a Glasgow asylum when Kathleen was only 3 years old. She never knew her father and as a teenager she arrived in Birmingham, living in various lodgings in Ladywood during the early part of the 2nd world war.

As a young single woman in wartime Ladywood, Kathleen became pregnant and had a baby, also Kathleen, in 1940. The baby was Christened at the Oratory church on Hagley Road but, living in temporary digs in the midst of the bombing blitz on Ladywood, Kathleen found that she was unable to look after her child and instead paid to have her cared for by foster parents in Hednesford, Staffordshire.

On her blog Julie observes:

“ She managed to pay 12 shillings and six pence for little Kathleen's foster care so she would have a proper family and be out of danger of the Nazi's nightly bombing blitz of Birmingham which destroyed shops, buildings and people. Every day could have been her last. Every day she got on the tram with her gas mask to go to work at the Munitions factory and a house or business had been hit ”.

However, in 1943 Kathleen fell off a tram and the injury she sustained made it difficult to earn a regular income, meaning that she could no longer afford the regular payments to the foster parents in Hednesford. In desperation she wrote to Father William Flint of the Father Hudson's Homes for Homeless and Friendless Catholic Children in Coleshill and the 3 year old was taken into the nursery at Coleshill before moving to Nazareth House in Rednal in 1944.

Julie records:

“ Mum's memory begins nine years into her childhood. Nothing before nine. It was the first time she travelled to Southampton from Nazareth House at Rednal, Birmingham. It was freezing even with a new red coat she and a few others got for Christmas. Twenty-two children had been picked from their orphanage. They walked carefully up the plank of the massive ship S.S. Asturius on 8th February 1950 care of the Immigration Department, Sydney, N.S.W.

“ The Commonwealth of Australia had paid their ticket, but they were kids and weren't to know that there was a plan and a policy behind their excursion to the other side of the world - what they would now call a win-win situation ”.

Life in Australia was hard for the innocent orphans who were trained from the age of 5 to do harsh domestic and agricultural chores. Disobedience was punished by the nuns with malicious, sometimes cruel discipline.

Back home in Birmingham Kathleen senior had married a Polish man named Bruno Frackowiak and the couple set up home in Selly Oak.

In 1955 Kathleen Frackowiak told her husband Bruno about her illegitimate child in Australia and in 1956 she went to see Father Flint at the Coleshill complex to request the possibility of her daughter coming back from Australia. The priest's first response was that it would not be in the girl's best interests but eventually, in February 1959, 18 year old Kath finally left the care of the nuns in Australia and returned to England to meet her mother for the first time in her life. Her mother Kathleen Frackowiak, nee. Clarke, met her off the ship in Southampton and they returned to the family home in Hubert Road in Selly Oak.

This is just the briefest outline of the story and there is much more on Julie’s website.  

Julie herself grew up in Selly Oak but emigrated to Australia in 1978 with her family.

If you have any information about Father William Flint, the Father Hudson’s Homes emigration scheme or Nazareth House in Rednal, please contact Julie through her website or email me at  

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
    and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"