Friday, 13 February 2009

Nobody Came by Robbie Garner and Toni Maguire, a review

Nobody Came
- the appalling true story of brothers cruelly abused in a Jersey care home -
by Robbie Garner with Toni Maguire.


Robbie Garner was taken into care in Jersey at the age of five following the catastrophic breakdown of his mother's dysfunctional relationship with her partner, his short life already blighted by callous maternal neglect. This would have been around 1960. Dates, like some other details, are not spelled out - the book is concerned with the emotional landscape its author endured, rather than attempting a documentary account.

With him to the Sacre Coeur orphanage went his three year old brother, Davie, while older brother John was dispatched to the Haut de la Garenne children's home, where Robbie was later to follow.

`Nobody Came' is the story of the horrific emotional, physical and sexual abuse Robbie experienced and witnessed in these two `care' establishments. He finally decided to tell the story he had kept buried for so many years when Haut de la Garenne hit the headlines in 2007 with allegations of decades of abuse. A disclaimer states that "in order to protect privacy, some names, identifying characteristics, dialogue and details have been changed . . . and the staff mentioned in this book are composite characters, drawn from the experiences of those whom the author remembers." No doubt this has also been necessary because of the ongoing investigation of historical abuse claims surrounding Haut de la Garenne, and the hope that perpetrators will eventually be brought to court.

Toni Maguire is herself an abuse victim whose bestselling works draw on her own tragic childhood. She is now helping other people to tell their stories and the chemistry here has worked to very good effect. The writing is a model of clarity. The story told in a direct and straightforward way is highly readable, moving - and deeply shocking.

Were the nuns of Sacre Coeur misguided religious zealots or manipulative abusers hiding behind the cloak of religion? The book simply tells the story of their barbaric cruelty and leaves the reader to wonder. But the sense of authenticity is enhanced by the young Robbie's sensitivity, even at such a tender age, to the occasional nun who appears troubled by the nature of the regime in which she too is trapped. One such is`Sister Claire', who to her eternal credit (composite character or not) finds ways to practise subversive acts of kindness.

On graduating to Haut de la Garenne, Robbie finds himself in a nightmarish world of casual brutality, where physical and sexual bullying is commonplace and where the depraved lusts of certain members of staff are given free rein in ritualistic orgies of abuse. Whether this extends to murder it is not possible to say, but there are unexplained disappearances, and one of Robbie's friends is driven to suicide. Robbie is acutely aware of the suffering of other boys (and in due course girls) and counts himself lucky that he is not pretty enough to become a `favourite'.

If Haut de la Garenne has a saving grace it is the quality of the food, so someone at least is doing the job they are paid for.

The sense of authenticity that pervades `Nobody Came', notwithstanding the disclaimer, is in stark contrast to the increasingly convoluted efforts of the Jersey establishment to sweep the whole Haut de la Garenne tragedy conveniently under the carpet. Their confident assertion that `there were no murders at Haut de la Garenne' would be laughable if it wasn't so serious. There may not be compelling evidence of such crimes, but that is very far from proof that no murder happened, especially when complete records of the children taken into care appear not to have been kept.

Happily, Robbie Garner has proved to be a survivor. His book too will survive. And it will continue to have a powerful and compelling voice for as long as justice for the victims of the Jersey care system remains elusive.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

yes i have just read the book ,and could only get through a UK book club ,RobbieMaguires book has stayed with me ,the overwhelming fear and terror those children felt must have been literally hell on earth ,i hope with all my heart these brave people get justice ,as being a mother ,i dont think there is a more vile crime than child abuse

Anonymous said...

I have also just finished this book, what can I say! this treatment towards childen is barbaric. we so often hear of incidents like this STILL happening in today's modern world! LETS STAMP CHILD ABUSE OUT!
The criminal justice system is not harsh enough for the perpetraitors of this type of crime!
My heart goes out to R.Maguire and the sheer courage it took to put pen to paper

Anonymous said...

I have just completed a certificate IV in Youth Work and have recently become a mother to a 4 month old baby boy. Having said that I had planned to put my life on hold for a while until I decided if I wanted to further my education in this field or swing towards sinething else. After reading this book it is clear to me now what it is I should and want to be doing and that is to rescue helpless children from these pathetic and disgusting human beings. I am now studying a Bachelor of Social Work and plan to become a welfare worker and one of great compassion and awareness. This book has inspired me so much..I feel for the people who haved suffered such heart renching ordeals and praise them for their bravery!

uruisg said...

Good luck with your plans. If you haven't read Toni Maguire's other books I would strongly recommend them - you will gain further inspiration and commitment.

Hannahgirl said...

Im a survivor myself and read lots of survivor books but this one I read in one hit straight until 4am.Then I couldnt sleep the rest of last night cos I was so sad for Robbie,Davie,John,Marc and each and every one of these boys.
I think it took enormous courage to write such brutal truths and as I know ppl who were abused in the way of the 'cellar abuse' (known as ritual abuse),myself included I was excited that someone had finally written about it.I think ppl genuinely dont believe this level of depravity exists but it does.It certainly did in the orphanages run by sadisstic criminals back then and it still exists today.
I wanted to come on here for 2 reasons.One to tell Robbie if you read these posts that you're in my prayers.
also because its an English book, I wanted ppl in England (and Australia) to know that at last, there is a place where survivors can go and get help in a loving,confidential and safe manner and is affordable.(I mean that cos many of us are on social security.)Mayumarri runs healing weeks for survivors of all ages (we have a youth program here but not yet in UK),male and female,any type of abuse.
The reason I wanted to tell you is because this place has also been started (by the sister of the woman,Liz Mulliner,both survivors) who started the healing weeks over here and her husband,also a survivor,has now started hw's in the UK.
If any survivors of abuse are reading this and want to heal,if any of you are sick of getting nowhere in therapy or didnt know there was ppl who understand,please at least google 'Mayumarri'.There is no sitting around talking about stories,it is all aboutconfidential sharing with carers and sharing feelings.
Mayumarri is run for survivors by survivors and every carer there has done their own healing weeks aswell as being trained as carers.
For me,a week at Mayumarri is better than a years therapy.Me,and so many other...want to live now and finally have hope and know I can heal.
I feel passionately that just like Robbie,we all need to heal and start telling the world whats been,and continues to happen to children until they losten.If we can save just one child from years of trauma it would be worth it.
Thanks again Robbie.Im so sorry that happened to you...to all of you.
Jo

Anonymous said...

I have just finished this book and am deeply saddened by the abuse these children went through. i cant stop thinking about the boys. especially the boy who was burned in the chicken shed. what happened to him? i cant believe how brave robbie and his brother were. how brave all those boys were. how dose one ever recover from such a childhood? thankyou, Robbie and Toni, for writting this book. it was written so well, that at times i thought i was there with robbie. you are a true survivor.

Anonymous said...

I have just read this book and I am disgusted that children culd be treated in this way. Unfortunately, these things still happen in the 21st century. I worked in child protection myself for over 20 years and am still disgusted at how most times when I reported that a child was being abused, nothing was done by my line managers at all and I remember being told by senior management on one occasion to "do what you want" on reporting a child that was being sexually abused. I am sure that Robbies brother would be so proud of him for writing his story and I hope that by people reading books about personal experiences of abuse we may be able to begin to educate the "ordinary man in the street". As adults we should all be responsible for ensuring that children have happy, healthy and normal lives and grow into responsible adults.

Stella said...

My heart absolutely broke reading this book, to the point it has almost dipped me into a bleak depression that such atrocities can take place in a so called civilised society. Robbie should be an inspiration to all of us showing such love and dedication to his brothers. How he continued to soldier on for the sake of Davie is one of the most admirable things I have ever read. I have read a number of books like this and my own husband had a terrible childhood in NZ but without exception I have lived and breathed this with Robbie. I am sure it is of little comfort to him but hopefully it will be when I say that I genuinely care for him and Davie. It has also made me hold my three children closer than ever. I do not ever feel a desire to go to Jersey anymore as I feel the place is tainted with lies, cruelty and a huge cover up. I hope you find some comfort in your life now and are able to find some comfort knowing there are lots of people like me who feel for you and wish you and Davie only the best.

Anonymous said...

Having just finished this book I feel totally distraught that supposedly human beings can inflict such torture on poor defenceless children and rob them of their childhood which can never be replaced. What is even more sickening is to read in this blog that even when abuse is reported it is ignored will nobody care for these poor souls. I hope these boys no nothing but good times from now on and that these vile perpetrators are made an example of,fat hope!!

Anonymous said...

i just finishe the book reading none stop in three days, i too was sexually abused by my father like toni maguire . what robbie and his brotheres and friends were subjected to was horrific and heartbreaking and us innocent people live with that sexual abuse for the rest of our lives. i can sorrily say i understand it and we are not dirty secrets we are the innocent ones that suffer.

Melissa said...

For this man to go through such an awful ordeal to not only experience it but to live his whole life and even write about his past is incredible, this book will stay with me for the rest of my life it made such an impact on me and i take my hat off to him and respect him so much, the type of people who did and still do these terrible things are 100% sick in the head and should be wiped off the face of the earth "Do unto others as they would do to you",

I will never forget what i have read and i feel as if i was there going through it with him as he was telling the story, for him to share these things with us is amazing and he is so so brave to openly express the feelings he experienced.

Anonymous said...

HAVE JUST FINISHED READING THE BOOK AND CAN IDENTIFY WITH ALOT OF THE FEELING THAT ROBBIE AND HIS BROTHERS HAVE BEEN THROU.IT BREAKS MY HEART THAT ANY CHILD SHOULD GO THROU SUCH HORROR. THANK U FOR SPEAKING UP FOR ALL OF US THAT JUST COULDNT. U WILL BE ALWAYS IN MY PRAYS.

Anonymous said...

i swear to god this is the hardest book i have ever tried to read.i bought it a week ago and i read a page put it down read another bit and cry.you and your brother are the bravest men ive every heard about.if i had one wish i would click my fingers and give you and your wee brother inner peace.dont you worry there is a special place in hell for *******s like them and all there hurt theyve caused will be done on them.thank you 4 your book i hope its helped you.my friend told me about a year ago that he was sexually abused by a man when he was ten it went on for 4 years.im trying to get him to get into counselling young men who have been through what he has been through as i think he would get alot out of it and he would love to help people because he is a very kind lovely family man.if anybody reading this could give some ideas please do i would be grateful.best wishes to robbie,davie and john xoxo .keep fighting you are heros...

Anonymous said...

i beleive you hanna you should write your story youd help people

Anonymous said...

simply ur amazing i wish i had ur courage and strength, i don't no how i managed to read ur book through my tears, my story is no where near the hell on earth u and so many others have suffered but by reading truly amazing story's of courage as yours u give me the strength to breath freely every day for this i thank u xxxx

Anonymous said...

simply amazing , i don't no how i managed to read your story though my tears.I wish i had your strength and courage you truly are an amazing man. My story is no where near as traumatic and horrifying as your own and so many others i have read but by bravely sharing your story the way yourself and so many other amazing people do gives me a reason to see how lucky i am and blessed and for this i truly thank you xxx

Ashlegh said...

I have been reading this book for two weeks and finished it today. It's probably one of the best books I've read. Robbie Garner takes you on a journey throughout his life. He has a hard start in life; a drunk for a Mother, and a Father who cares in some ways, but hardly sees his children. However, when it got to the point where he moves to the first home, I was so shocked at everything he had experienced. I had no idea nuns back in them days were such harsh, cruel bastards. All four children were split up, which must of been very hard for all of them.
The point where he's taken to the final home; you begin to think there's some kind of hope for Robbie; there's decent food, no chores, books, television; but it's even worse than the first home.

I can't even begin to imagine what Robbie went through. I am just so grateful that times have changed. I feel sorry for Robbie and Davie. I wish them my very best.

Lindy Owler said...

This sadistic abuse must no longer

be tolerated. My heart goes out to

Toni and Robbie. You are both

survivors and therefore the

stronger person. I admire you both

and wish you much happiness for

the future. Good for you for

speaking out. Amazing people. x x x

CARA said...

I have just read this book and I have never experienced anything as near as the devistation you boys but i just felt I needed to comment I have never cryed so much in my life I could picture all you boys and just wanted to reach into the pages and hug you so tight. My mind cant comprehend my sorrow and disbelieve the traumers you had all been exposed to and still I am talking as though you are all here as small boys! An amazing book which brings you back to reallity I hope to God you feel just a bit of safety and peace in your life now as nobody should be denied their childhood in the way you did and may all abusers die a slow painful death fully aware of the heartache they have inflicted. I feel such sorrow and anger after reading the book and cant imagine the level of physical and emotional pain you encoutered.I hope telling your story has helped you a little but I doubt it. My thoughts are and always will be with you as you have inflicted me in such a dramatic way that I shall never forget your words,your angish, your pain.

elaine price said...

gampuri have read many abuse books because i experienced abuse as a child and somehow need to read them and how these brave people have coped in their lives. i havent yet read this book but will do so very soon, my heart goes to these boys before even readint the book, i wish them all very long and happy lives.

TERESA FURNESS said...

I am three quarters through this book and without a doubt have been IN the surroundings of those precious children from the way the book has been so carefully and clearly written. I am not an aggressive woman but can categorically proclaim that I would be prepared to tighten the noose on all and every one of the barbaric rabble who subjected those dear children to such hyenous abuse under the guise of 'caring for them'. It beggars belief that this went on in my childhood. Robbie and his siblings can't be much, if at all, older than me and it's horrifying that these and other dear children were subjected to horrendous deeds day in and day out while I was playing in and out. I've had to close the book on occasions through tearfulness. We must never let this happen again but even in the current climate atrocities are occurring to the vulnerability of our children, bless their little hearts. I'm a grandmother to five little cherubs and would swing for the person who put one hand on them. I find it so hard to comprehend that Nobody Came or cared enough about these children for,as adults, we all have a responsibility to intervene for their well being. I take off my hat to Robbie for having the balls to write his story. What a good man for bringing it to our attention.

Anonymous said...

I found this book in a book sale at Highlands College and must admit I was not sure whether to read it. I've just finished and I think this story will live with me for a quite a while to come. I really need to hug Robbie and tell him that not all people are like that, but of course he already knows this. I hope I join the hundreds of thousands of people who've read his story to let Robbie know that although we will never meet him, we love him all the same because he's a fellow human.God bless you mate.

Anonymous said...

Robbie gerner my heart gos out to you. I read your book in 6 hours I couldnt put it down. Then when I finished I sat and sobbed. Lets hope them nuns and animals rot in hell

Kerry o,connor said...

I have read this book with horror, sorrow and enormous gratitude to Robbia for sharing his truly horrific time at this so called institute of care. I have 3 boys all the same age as the brothers. I would like to know more what happened to them does he still hear from them. It's hard to understand how people can do such things to others especially children. The church and the wardens have a lot to answer for . Robbia if you see this huge love and hugs to you and all the others who shared this time with you.

Kerry said...

Robbia my heart goes out to you and the others that suffered. Thank you for finding the strength to write this. The church and the wardens have a lot to answer for. Why oh why was this not reported sooner. Huge hugs and kisses. I will look at my ree boys who are the same age in a new light

Anonymous said...

What can I say that's not already said but the hole time crying and wanting so despetly wanting to just cuddle the 3 of the boys and make it better was All I could think of .... Robbie your heart is amazing ... You where so lucky to have the wonderful I would say amazing brother John ... In your description of davie reminded me of my son but with blond hair I cringed at the thought of anyone hurting him .... All I can say is sending all my heart and love to you and davie .... You are all amazing wonderful powerful people

Anonymous said...

I have just finished reading this book..and my heart was breaking throughout,i cannot believe that the people who were supposed to be there ..to care for these poor children were the ones that made their life a living HELL!!..I hope those evil scum suffer!!..I would like to wish Robbie & Davie all the gd luck in the world ..u so so deserve it xxx

Anonymous said...

For the first commenter on this page (regarding "Nobody Came" and this is for the comment time-stamped 24 February 2009 21:12): Why could you only get this book from a UK book club? Where is it that you live that you could not get it? I ask because I understand the book was BANNED on the island of Jersey, the location of the orphanage Mr. Robbie Garner spoke about. Please respond here -- or anyone with knowledge on this -- I will check back.

Anonymous said...

Dear Robbie Garner - your story of pure grit and strength amidst vile evilness will forever be etched in my mind. The challenges I've faced in life is nothing compared to yours. My ocean deep gratitude to you for putting me in my position and reminding me to be grateful for what I have. I am determined to dedicate my life to helping orphaned, unwanted children in my retirement years. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Haveing just read the comment from January 2013, The orphanage stood on Rouge Boullion, I too was amazed on a visit to the island, in the early 2002. was that it was gone and redeveloped. Also that Jersey Heritage has locked files, on those establishments, until 2060.Why do they not accept their was wrong doings going on.
Regards Robbie

uruisg said...

So glad to receive your comment (above) Robbie. I think that some of the previous comments came from people who hoped they would be getting their message to you. So now, hopefully, they have. I hope life is treating you well these days and you are able to move on from the horrors of the past.

kay said...

Dear Robbie,
I have nearly finished your book, and I have to say that it truly is the most appalling, sickening account of child abuse that I have ever read. The description of how you and several others were taken to the cellar for 'parties' made me want to cry. I can't imagine the fear and sheer terror that you all would have felt being degraded in this way. I simply can't understand the warped, sadistic mentality of these vile creatures who did these things. Thank you for putting this in the public eye and sharing your story with us all.

Carlos said...

I wish that I had the funds to research these People involved and make sure the whole world knows who they are and the things they did!!!!

I have two boys of my own and this struck a nerve that makes me furious

Hope that people around places like these are more aware today than they were in the 60's

Thank God for helping Boys and girls all over the world to cope and get out of situations like these

robiegarner@live.co.uk said...

Regret to say, Davey pasted away on the 10th October 2012, he will be missed, thought his suffering has finally ended. For those of you who did not know Davey, he never uttered a word or critic, about his upbringing, not once in his life. Bless him. robbie

Anonymous said...

Dear Robbie,
My heart goes out to you and those who went through that system of autrocities.
I understand your discomfort with physical contact, so, would you allow a hug to come through via this short letter?
I truelly admire your strength and courage Robbie.
Thank you for being brave. Thank you for being you.
Sincerely
T.H.