Transcript of part of an interview with Charlie Walker, talking about his experiences at St Augustine’s Orphanage, Geelong, Victoria, in the 1940s. The interview was recorded in 2010 by the National Library of Australia.
NARRATOR: Charlie Walker tells some stories of his life as a boy at St Augustine’s orphanage in Geelong, Victoria.
CHARLIE WALKER: In the plantation at Geelong, there used to be a big plantation run between the playground and the buildings where we kept all our pets there. One morning when we went out to feed our pets before we went into school they were missing. So we decided, we lined up actually for class, and we wanted to know where our pets were. I rang the bells so that somebody would come out of the brothers quarters. I think it was Brother Myers, if I remember rightly, came out and said, ‘What’s going on?’. I said, ‘Our pets are missing. We want our pets back,’ and we were having an argument with the Christian brother. ‘We want our pets, we want our pets back’.
Anyway Brother O’Shea came out and I said, ‘O’Shea, we want our pets. They were stolen. Report to the police. We want our pets back.’ He said, ‘Go back to school class.’ I said, ‘No, we’re not going back. We want our pets. We want our pets,’ just like a big demonstration, you know. He said, ‘All right, I promise you, the pets will be back at 12 o’clock.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I hope so because that’s all the family we have.’ That’s what I said to him.
The pets were put in the long loft. They came back and were put in the wrong cages and everything. Brother Sweeney took them to Geelong market to sell them, so they must be desperate for money or something. There was rabbits, guinea pigs, cockatoos, galahs, white mice, rats ‑ would you believe it, the kids had pet wild rats? ‑ and rabbits. It taught us a lot to be caring and also how to keep out of trouble and we had something to do. We weren’t bored because we had our pets. A lot of kids liked their pets. I do know for a fact that if Brother O’Shea didn’t get those pets back, his pets would have been ‑ [noise] ‑ like his racing pigeons and Tiger the magpie. You know what I mean? They would have had their throats cut like I done to his two rosellas.
He said to me once ‑ it was the first year I was at St Augustine’s and it was the Christmas holidays ‑ ‘I’ll give you two shillings to look after these two rosellas.’ They were in a cage while he went for holidays. He promised he’d give me two shillings when he came back home. So I really looked after those two birds over the holidays and when he came back, put my hand out and he never paid me. Anyway I kept at him. He never paid me and he said he’d put the money in the lolly shop for me. I am standing outside the lolly shop every Saturday evening before the pictures were shown, waiting for my name to be called out. It was never ever called.
So I decided to get even with O’Shea. Brother O’Shea, he was the superior of course. I necked the two of them ‑ I wrung their necks. I used to gut their cage first, and shut the cage to get even with him and finish up ‑ [noise] ‑ I necked them. And O’Shea didn’t know what happened to his two pets, his pet rosellas.
When I was in grade six, I walked in this morning and there were two rosellas in a cage and they were stuffed. I went up to the brother and said, ‘Excuse me, Sir, what’s the rosellas?’ ‘Oh they’re Brother O’Shea’s pets he had years ago.’ I tell you what, I swear black and blue those rosellas stared at me every time I walked in the class. They looked at me. When the kids weren’t around I’d say, ‘I’m sorry, I really apologise for necking them.’ What a little brat was I? That’s what I said to myself. What a little brat was I. I necked the poor buggers.
Actually I kidnapped O’Shea’s magpie once. O’Shea had this magpie called Tiger, right, and the kids loved him. He used to come up and you’d feed him a bit of bread or a bit of toast, you know. When O’Shea knocked our pets off I said, ‘O’Shea already owes me money from the time before over his two rosellas,’ and I said only one way to get money out of this bastard, that’s what I said to meself, I will kidnap Tiger.
Me and another kid was involved. So we kidnapped Tiger his magpie. O’Shea said to the kids ‑ we didn’t ask him, we just wanted to see what he says. We put this magpie in the yellow cage which was out of bounds. Nobody was even allowed to go to the yellow cage. This Tiger was locked up in the yellow cage. Anyway he said he’d give a reward of five shillings for anybody who finds his magpie.
So we let it go for a couple of weeks and I said to Brother O’Shea, ‘Brother, brother, I think I seen your magpie Tiger. I was out rabbiting and I seen this magpie amongst a group of magpies there. Is that reward still on offer?’ He said, ‘Yes, if you get him back.’ I said, ‘I swear that was Tiger because ‑ [noise] ‑ I swear he was trying to talk to me’.
Anyway the following day it was a Saturday afternoon I brought Tiger back in a pullover. I said, ‘Brother O’Shea, is this your magpie?’ ‘Oh Tiger, Tiger,’ we put our hands out and he paid us straight away ‑ five shillings. We went straight down to the lolly shop and bought lollies.