A Sense Of Belonging – Episode 31

So here he was. Within a hair’s breadth of holding his precious daughters in his arms again. He hoped they wouldn’t be strange with him. He’d missed them terribly and not a single day had gone by without him thinking about them. But a year was a long time to have been separated.

It was a pity the home had not let them read his letters. To him, the policy of not letting families have contact with bairns while they were in the care of the institution seemed cruel, and even though all of that had been explained to him by Gertrude Pettigrew when he’d signed the papers, his mind mustn’t have been quite right at the time, for he hadn’t expected the rules to be enforced as strictly as they had.

Euan wondered about Gertrude. When he asked for her when he first arrived, he’d been told she no longer worked at the Orphan Institution. Perhaps she’d found a better position for herself.

Just at that, a man strode towards him.

Euan rose. He recognised the man’s face immediately, for it was the same man he’d seen driving the car that had passed him near Claredon Drive the day he’d left Jean and Nell there, and it dawned on him that this was Mr Campbell, the governor.

They shook hands and exchanged the most cursory of introductions.

“I regret to inform you,” Mr Campbell said, “that your daughters are no longer in our care.”

Euan flinched.

“What are you talking about?”

“I have a note on their file which states that you were advised of an opportunity for your two daughters to begin a new life elsewhere.”

Euan was confused and a feeling of panic began to bubble inside him.

“Begin a new life?”

“Yes. As part of the Child Migration Scheme.”

Horrified, Euan shook his head.

“Migration scheme? Oh, no. There’s been a mistake.”

“No mistake, Mr McIntosh. I have a note on both Jane and Helen’s files which confirms that you were advised of that opportunity and gave your consent.”

“I did no such thing!” Euan’s voice was high pitched now. “And I never received any letter about it, either.” His pulse was racing. He stared at Mr Campbell, desperately willing him to concede that it was a mistake, but he did not.

“Do you not recall receiving a letter informing you that Jane and Helen had been selected for inclusion in the scheme and seeking your consent?”

“No! I received no letter!”

Silence. Euan gripped the parcel so tight the brown paper ripped underneath his fingers.

“It is most unsatisfactory,” Mr Campbell said after a pause, “that you have no recollection of that communication. The task was delegated to Miss Gertrude Pettigrew who said that she had met you personally and knew something of your circumstances through her sister-in-law who adopted your son. I spoke to Miss Pettigrew about the matter myself. She assured me that you had replied through her sister-in-law and expressed your sincere desire that your daughters be given the chance of a new life in another country.”

“Lies!” Euan said with rage.

“Oh, well,” Mr Campbell said very carefully, “there shall have to be an investigation, though I dare say that will be hampered by the fact that Miss Pettigrew is no longer in our employment. She herself has emigrated, you see, to Canada. She left in September last year the same time as her brother and his family.”

“What?” Euan felt panic rise inside him. “Are you saying my son has been taken to Canada?”

Mr Campbell gave a small nod.

“I sense that you have been misled.”

“And my two lassies where are they?”

“On their way to Australia, Mr McIntosh. They’re among a group of fifty or so youngsters aboard the North Star. They set sail a week ago.”

A dark shadow crossed over Euan’s heart.

“I need some air,” he

said quietly.

Outside, he clung to a railing. Australia was the other side of the world and the chance of ever seeing Jean and Nell again had vanished into that distance. How could fate be so merciless?


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