Thursday, March 19, 2009

Never Again by Terence O'Neill

I have written a few times about the death of Dennis O'Neill in 1945 on a remote farm in Shropshire. It was a case that scandalised the country - dominating the newspapers even above coverage of the war - and led directly to the reforms of the 1948 Children Act.

A member of the O'Neill family recently left a comment on one of those posts telling me that Dennis's brother Terry, who was with Dennis when he died, has written the story of his life. It is on the website Authonomy - it seems you have to register to read the books there - under the title Never Again.

This book is important not just for its account of events at Bank Farm but also for the picture it paints of public childcare in the immediate post-war years. I shall write about it at greater length one day.

The blurb for the book runs:

Born into a dysfunctional family of eight children, Terence and two brothers were taken into care in 1940, judged to be in need of care and protection. They were moved from Newport to Herefordshire and for a few short years things went well.

In 1944 things changed when the boys were separated, Terence and Dennis were handed over to the Gough’s on a remote Shropshire farm. Six months later Dennis was found dead, killed by starvation and violence. Both boys had suffered punishments and hunger.

Terence was the main prosecution witness at the manslaughter trial of the Gough’s. The trial aroused world wide attention, and took preference over the war news in March 1945. This was followed by a public enquiry into the care system chaired by Sir Walter Monckton, K.C. M.G. and led to the Children Act of 1948. The trial caught the interest of Agatha Christie who it is said based The Mousetrap the world famous play on this tragedy.

Terence still has difficulty with his memories and the fact that similar tragedies are still happening. He tells of his struggle to cope with ordinary life after spending thirteen years being shunted about in the care system.


Anonymous said...

Dear Jonathan.
I've only today found your comments, and I thank you for your interest. I am about to do some rewriting and editing to this first draft. I've had many encouraging comments and suggestions from readers and friends. Some have said that this would make a good docu-drama for tv.
I look forward to any comments you may like to offer.
Yours Sincerely. Terry O'Neill

Jonathan Calder said...


Many thanks for leaving a comment. Would you like to send me your email address?

I am at

Anonymous said...

I have ordered three books from the UK as they are not available in Australia as yet.
I am a daughter of Mary (Mollie) Shortt who I know was very concerned for Terry O'Neill when he was a child.
My family look forward to reading the book - it is a pity my parents are no longer here to read it as well and especially to know Terry is hopefully well and happy

Anonymous said...

I have just finished reading this book and can not belive this is still happening today.What a brave young boy and now a brave man.I want to be a foster parent myself and so I am reading everything I can get my hands on,good and bad.I will treat every child as my own.As hard as this book was to read I think it is time to do something positive and try to make a difference.

Anonymous said...

It shouldn't had happened to poor Dennis, he had a life. Now he is a better place heaven.

Anonymous said...

I have just read this book it touched me so deeply , It is hard to believe people can be so cruel, I am glad that most people are kind and careing,Terry and Dennis were so unlucky to meet these awful people .you are in my thoughts Terry since reading your book AMOS BELL