John yearned for mum amid abuse

The West Australian

COLLEEN EGAN The West Australian
April 29, 2014

John Hennessey is 78 years old but if you listened to his words yesterday, all you could see was a frightened and lonely young boy, starved of love.

After choosing to take the oath on the Bible instead of an affirmation – he still believes in God – Mr Hennessey paused before starting his testimony, holding a picture of his late mother, May.

“I brought my mother with me,” he said.

From the 18th floor of a Perth skyscraper, the first witness at the royal commission took a packed public gallery on a harrowing journey from an illegitimate birth, to an early childhood in a home run by kindly nuns, to a harsh institution in WA to rival any tale by Charles Dickens.

Believing he was an orphan, unaware that his Irish mother had been told he was dead, 11-year-old John boarded a ship in Britain for a land he’d been told was full of fruit and kangaroos.

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