Phenomena The Lost and Forgotten Children by Susan Tarr #TBConFB #Malcolm’s Story @SusanMTarr



I was raised within the community of the New Zealand, Seacliff Mental Hospital village during the 1950s, with each of our family members working in the psychiatric hospital at some time or another. We sometimes shared our primary school with young patients who came down from the hospital. On turning fifteen we often worked up the hill, helping in the canteen, laundry, wards or occupational therapy. From a young age we absorbed the stories, and it was difficult to know where fiction ended and the greater truth took over.

To separate the truths from the almost-truths at this stage would be an impossible task as many of those concerned have died. Therefore I have blended together various stories in this narrative as representative of our family and friends’ combined belief of what most probably did happen during the period covered by this narrative. Wherever possible, I have used correct dates, names and places. When there is a modicum of doubt in my mind I have changed names and details for the protection of those still living.

As a child I knew Malcolm, who was then a young man, since Dad often invited him home for meals. He was one of the lost children, those forgotten or abandoned by their families. We followed Malcolm’s story from childhood to adulthood as best we could even after he was eventually discharged back into the community. When considering the tragedy and abuse of Malcolm’s wasted earlier years, it is a story of immeasurable sadness. Yet he ultimately rose above it all, and with admirable strength, courage and innate resilience, was finally able to ‘free the regular boy within’ as he had always wanted.

This is Malcolm’s story as I believe it unfolded.



Having had 2 great aunts put into asylums for incidents that had nothing  to do with madness instantly drew me to this book. One aunt for having a baby as an unmarried teenager and another for throwing bricks through the windows of her husband’s mistress’ house.

It is hard to believe that the human race were so barbaric not that many years ago, in fact we still are in many respects.  When I was growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s there were very few disabled people about. I can remember people having babies and been told the child has been sent away to be looked after because something was wrong with it. It was always miles away too. I lived in Yorkshire and the children were always sent down south. They were never visited. I believe that it was thought the couple would get over it quicker the further away the ‘problem’ was. I only ever knew one disabled child when I was growing up, he was much younger than me. A thalidomide baby and of course the ones that had polio so had a thin leg and caliper.

Now for one child’s journey. Meet Malcolm. Malcolm has to be one of the most courageous people you could ever want to meet and his story is just heartbreaking. This story is set in New Zealand where the author knew Malcolm when she was a child and he a young man. When Malcolm was abandoned at the railway station after his widowed father remarried, he was taken to Seacliff Mental Hospital. No one really wanted a child with disabilities and Malcolm came with three physical ones, but was as bright as a button. He wasn’t the only child there. Here were the damaged ones that society wanted to forget about, the most vulnerable incorporated with not only adults that shouldn’t be there either but more frighteningly the ones that did.

It seems there was nothing there to protect them from the barbaric treatments and quite often unnecessary medication dealt out to sedate patients not make them well. The author captures  this era perfectly telling the story from the inside. There are some lighter moments as well as a particular quite strange and macabre story of dealing with an abundance of cats at the hospital.

I was totally engrossed in this story which introduced me to this gentle man who still had the ability to show others compassion. The real Malcolm was always there locked in his head. It just took someone to help free him.


About the Author

Author Susan Tarr has been writing for 25 years, and she often draws from the diaries she wrote during her international travels. She lived in Kenya, East Africa, where she raised her family. Although she writes from personal experience, she also uses anecdotal information from conversations and other peoples’ stories, resulting in her characters taking on a life of their own and becoming larger than life. Susan says, “As I write their stories, my characters will often lead me to places I couldn’t imagine. So I relax and let them form as they will.” “I am passionate about my writing,” she says. “I usually have three books on the go at any one time.”



7 thoughts on “Phenomena The Lost and Forgotten Children by Susan Tarr #TBConFB #Malcolm’s Story @SusanMTarr

  1. It terrifies me what they deemed as “madness” (I hate that word) back then and how people were treated regardless of whether they were sick or not. Whatever the state of our mental health system today I am grateful to not have to deal with how it was then.


  2. Susan, thank you so much for getting to know and appreciate Malcolm. He pretty much lives on in my heart. Sadly, there will always be the ones society shuns, for a variety of reasons, including greed and fear. I have been honored to write Malcolm’s story and give him, and others like him, their voice back. Susan Tarr (New Zealand)


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