Charity & Ghosts sheds light upon the historical period in which the English government deported around 150,000 children, from children's homes in Britain. The children were used to populate areas of the Commonwealth (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe) with 'white British stock'.
"Many of the children were told that their parents were dead. Their parents, too, were often deceived; many believed that their children had been adopted in Britain. The reality was very different: for numerous children it was to be a life of horrendous physical and sexual abuse in institutions in Western Australia and elsewhere." jacket cover of Empty Cradles by Margaret Humphreys (Corgi edition published 1995).
The song Charity and Ghosts was released on The Stillsons debut LP Circus in 2009.
The Charity and Ghosts Film Clip
The Charity and Ghosts film clip was released in September 2010, and broadcast on ABC RAGE TV (Australia) and Country Music Channel (Australia).
The film clip tells the story of a former British child-migrant. After hearing Kevin Rudd's apology to the 'Forgotten Australians' on Monday 16th November 2009, he opens up his childhood suitcase that he had stowed away since childhood. In so doing confronts the ghosts of his past.
Produced by Justin Bernasconi and Cat Canteri.
Directed by Jonathan Burton and Alex Joseski. Screenplay by Justin Bernasconi, Cat Canteri, Jonathan Burton and Alex Joseski
John Benton plays the former child migrant.
Cameron Davey plays the young boy.
The Charity and Ghosts film clip was shot at various locations in Melbourne, Australia over two days in the winter of 2010.
Why this subject?
Jason Bernasconi - Nullabour Plain 1972
Charity and Ghosts was written by Justin Bernasconi between September and December of 2006. Son to an English mother and New Zealand father, Justin's parents met and married in New Zealand in the 1960's. They later immigrated to Melbourne, Australia where their first child, Justin's older brother was born. They lived in Melbourne for another five years, then drove across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth were they board a boat and traveled to England to live.
Justin first heard the chorus line 'Where's your mama gone?' when his older brother would sing around their family home, in broad Australian accent. As a child Justin assumed the chorus line came from an ol' Australian folk song, or perhaps was an adaptation of a famous Australian poem.
When Justin's older brother was 19 years old, he went backpacking to Australia, back to the country where he was born. Keen to learn more about this brothers home land, Justin's mother brought home a few books for him to read - Lost Children of the Empire by Joy Meville and Phillip Bean and 'Growing up with Barnardo's' by Allan Moore and 'Empty Cradles' by Margaret Humphrey's.
Years later, Justin himself would immigrate to Australia. It was then he sort to learn further about this dark passage of history. After rereading 'Empty Cradles' by Margaret Humphrey's and 'Orphans of the Empire' ( Allan Gill) he was inspired to write the song which was later titled 'Charity and Ghosts'. He adapted the melody line he had heard his brother sing as a child. To his surprise, he later learned the bright chorus line came from the 70's hit 'Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep'.
Charity and Ghosts (Where's Your Mama Gone?)
Flags on the pier,
Eyes filled with fear,
The ship is leaving home,
You're singing all alone.
People stop and stare,
There's poor kids everywhere.
You know what they say?
She gave you away.
Take your brother's hand, but
You don't quite understand,
When he says goodbye, there are
Tears in his eyes.
Wind's turning cold, and
You're only ten years old,
The Official line they say,
We're giving you away.
So where's your mama gone?
Home kids on the run,
Working in the sun,
Praying everyday, but
God's gone away.
Keaney rings the bell,
His lies will go to hell,
He'll sit on your bed,
Say your mama's dead.
Who you love the most,
Charity or ghosts? And
What they gonna say?
They're bastards anyway!
Where's your mama gone?
Who you love the most,
Charity or ghosts?
Never let them say,
She gave you away.
J Bernasconi - with elements of Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep (Harold Stott/ Giuseppe Cassia/ J Bernasconi) Warner Chappell Music
Growing Up With Barndos - Allan Moore
Lost Children of the Empire - Joy Meville and Phillip Bean
Empty Cradles - Margaret Humphreys
Orphans of the Empire - Allan Gill
For further info