Eden Park Salvation Army Boys’ Home: (Or: The Coward)


Eden Park Salvation Army Boys’ Home (pictured above) was run in the 1960s by Salvo Officer, William Ellis. He was a large man who beat, raped and otherwise abused boys over a long period of time. This cowardly man showed how he could dish out punishment, but not take it himself. When found guilty and sentenced to 16 years prison for his crimes, Officer Ellis “shrieked hysterically and refused to leave the courtroom.” His appeal against the sentence was rejected unanimously.

The modus operandi of religious child sexual abusers varies according to denomination. Mainstream religious groups often rely on the prestige of the offender to get away with their crimes. The child is unlikely to be believed. Further, the victim feels that God is on the side of the abuser, which is why victims from particularly devout families are targeted. In some cases, the religious community in question treats the victim with rejection and other forms of disdain if they report abuses.

The method of choice for Salvation Army abusers lay in the type of victim. Typically, the Salvation Army relates to people who have been in trouble with the law, or come from very deprived backgrounds. Here, it is not so much the positive reputation of the abuser which gives them protection so much as the low reputation of the victims.

The Eden Park Home had the typical inmates. These were boys who were described as “troubled”, “delinquent”, “offenders”, ”neglected” , “in moral danger”, “homeless,” etc. Some, of course, were Indigenous youth forcibly removed by the authorities (members of the “Stolen Generation”). Either way, their complaints were easily dismissed against the denials of the Salvation Army.

When a former worker at Eden Park informed the Dunstan Government in South Australia, of abuses at the home, the complaints were not acted upon. The whistleblower lost his job.

The South Australian Government has a responsibility to the boys of Eden Park, since it was operated by the Salvation Army under the control of the state government. When asked about the fact that the government had been advised of the problems forty years ago, the responsible minister, Jay Weatherill (now Premier) hid behind the catch-cry of “client confidentiality” to neither confirm nor deny the claim. Dunstan is a political God in the memory of Labor in South Australia, so it is not surprising that many would not like to see his legacy sullied in this way.

When sentencing Ellis, Judge Michael David described the Eden Park Salvation Army boys’ home as a disgrace. “It was a horrific place by any standards, let alone modern standards,” he said.

The Salvation Army continues to block moves for decent compensation through litigation, according to victims’ lawyers. The very valuable Eden Park property was sold into private hands in 1997 for an undisclosed sum. That sum belongs to the victims.

[Postscript: One of the journalists who broke the Eden Park story was Joanne McCarthy, who also broke the Newcastle story (see yesterday’s posting).]

Read more here:

TOMORROW: Salvation Army Fullerton Girls’ Home

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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10 Responses to Eden Park Salvation Army Boys’ Home: (Or: The Coward)

  1. sally_Anne Holden says:

    May God heal your wounds, cried as I read Grahams book. Where where where were the Adults who should have stood up and been counted.

  2. Tim Skinner says:

    Catchup Night

    TIm Skinner’s life at Eden Park Boys Home

    Catchup night – usually on Thursdays about half an hour after dinner. The Library was an old stone building with two long bookshelves but no books. It had two very high small windows, six rows of bench seats made only of wood, and a big fireplace that was never used. The entrance was a pair of dilapidated wooden swinging doors. It had no lock, but there was a heavy bar outside the doors that the officers slid into big hooks to stop anyone inside from getting out. It was sometimes used as a lockup for groups of the boys. There was only one light. A single incandescent globe hanging on a cord from a rafter above the door. It was usually too dim to read.

    There was a wooden staircase at one end of the library, leading to a big room upstairs where the officers sometimes took boys for what they called ‘special learning’. No boys could ever go there alone – it was reserved for only ‘special boys’. Sometimes the officers took boys there from the dormitories late at night, and these boys usually stayed all night with the officers for this ‘special learning’.

    The Library was where I learned about ‘Catch-Up’ night.

    After dinner, instead of being allowed to play in the muddy yard for about 30 minutes, the man called the ‘Boys Officer’ mustered us into 6 lines just outside the library. We had to stand there in our number order. Number 1 being the front row on the left, and number 54 (the last number) was on the back row on the right. I was number 17. When I first arrived at Eden Park, I was Number 54, but after seven years, I moved up to Number 17. It didn’t make much difference, except that I could get into the eating room about 10 minutes sooner than Number 54.

    The Officers usually called us by our number, not our name.

    On this particular Catch-up night, all the boys were marched into the Library. We all sat down on the bench seats in number order. Nobody was allowed to talk.. I always sat next to Number 16. Number 16 was a special friend. He was a full-blood aboriginal boy from the Oodnadatta Reserve. His name was Keith. He was 13. I was 12. He taught me some aboriginal words (mostly the bad ones) He taught me now to kill a rabbit by cutting its neck with a sharp stone, and then how to eat it without cooking it. He was also the first boy to show me how to cut my wrist with a hot stone to share my blood with the blood that came from the same cut on his wrist. We became blood brothers. I learned to like this black boy, and he liked my white color.

    When we were all sitting on the wooden benches in the library, the Manager of Eden Park pushed the doors open and came in. He was a big man with an angry face. I don’t think I ever saw him smile. He wore a thick, long overcoat, an old stained grey hat, and this time, he had his piano accordion strapped to his chest. He often carried the accordion, and sometimes he had a mouth organ in in his pocket. But this time, there was no mouth organ.

    When he walked in, we all stood up and formed a line, in number order. Number 17 (me) was the first on the left in the 3rd row. The major never said hello to us, or good evening or anything friendly like that. He spent a long time just looking at us, sort of one by one, and then he unclipped the strap on the front of the piano accordion and started playing the same music he always did.

    He started with ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ and we all started singing. I loved singing, and I knew the words perfectly. I think I was about the best singer in the
    Orphanage. I always got the high notes, and I could sing in parts easily. Most of the other boys liked it when I sang really high notes. A few were a bit jealous.

    Then we sang ‘The Old Rugged Cross”. One of my favorite songs, and we finished with ‘Standing Somewhere in the Shadows you’ll find Jesus’. I really didn’t know much about what the songs meant, but the music was good, and I made them sound better.

    When the singing was over, the Boy’s Officer pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket. He walked over to us and started to read the names. ‘When I say your name”, he said “stand over near the stairs”.

    Just then, the Major put down the accordion. He reached into his pocket. I thought he was going to get his mouth organ and start some more singing. That’s what I hoped.

    Instead, the lump in his pocket wasn’t a mouth organ, it was his big leather strap – the one he used every now and then to give us a belting, usually across the hands or on the back of our legs.

    This was bad news. This was what they called ‘Catch-Up’ night. The night when some of us got a belting for things we did during the week, or things they said we did, but usually didn’t.

    Keith (my best friend) looked at me and poked my arm. ‘It’s bad tonight. He’s got the big strap’ Keith wasn’t wrong. We could see it was thick and wide, with some little shiny studs about have way along. What’s worse was that he was soaking the strap in the bucket on the floor. We wondered why it was there. Apparent it makes the strap harder, and it hurts more.

    The Boys Officer called out the numbers. ‘Number 4. Get over Here. This is for wetting your bed on Tuesday’. Michael was 11 years old and very skinny. He was good at drawing and could run as fast as the black kids. He walked out of the line and went over to the stairs. He looked really scared.

    The major pulled the strap out of the bucket. ‘Hold out your hands’, he commanded. Michael put both hands out and closed his eyes.

    The Major held the dry end of the strap in his right hand and flipped the rest over his shoulder. Then all of a sudden, he cracked the wet strap down right onto Michael’s hands. Michael went down on his knees. He started to cry and put his hands under his arms. That helped to take the pain away.
    ‘Get Up’, the Major yelled. ‘And hold your hands out again. This’ll teach you to wet your bed’.

    When he stood up, Michael was shaking and crying. But he was a good kid and he held his arms out again. We could see the left hand was bleeding.

    ‘Crack’! Down came the strap again, and Michael yelled. He was hurting really badly. And the right hand started to bleed. Maybe it was those studs. Nobody was talking. We just watched this punishment and felt scared for us, and bad for Michael. Michael went down on his knees again, his hands under his arms.

    ‘I’m sorry’, he yelled at the Major. ‘Please don’t hit me again’.

    ‘Get up’ the major commanded. ‘I haven’t finished yet. Stand up!’

    Crying loudly, Michael got to his feet. Out went his hands, dripping with blood, and this time, his eyes were squeezed closed.

    Crack. The whipping effect of the strap was loud, but not as loud as Michael’s scream. He collapsed to the floor in a heap of pain. His hands were a mess. The Boy’s Officer took his left arm and dragged him back to the line, leaving him doubled up in pain on the floor.

    The same thing happened to Number 5, Number 11, and Number 32. But Number 32 was different. His name was Barry. He was 13 and really strong. He always won the Running Backwards race, and could stay in the lockup without eating for 5 days. He came from a place called Samoa. Barry was caught talking in the Blue dormitory after the lights were out. He got 6 cuts of the strap, but he didn’t even cry. But it still made his hands bleed.

    I thought that was it. Catchup night finished. The boys started to move towards the door..

    ‘Stop’, yelled the Major. One more.

    ‘Number 17’

    That was me. Timothy Skinner. Number 17. Me. Why me?

    ‘Get out here’, roared the Major.

    I looked around. I don’t know why, but I thought it must be another Number 17. What was I being called for?

    ‘Skinner’, he yelled, ‘Move.

    Keith looked at me and grabbed my arm ‘It’s gonna hurt, he whispered’ pull your arms down a bit just before it hits’.

    I walked over to the stairs. I wanted to vomit. I didn’t understand why I was being called. Maybe just for a talk, a warning for something. Just make me feel bad.

    ‘Take off your shirt’, the major said in a sort of army way.

    I didn’t understand. But I took off my shirt.

    ‘This is for using the name of God in vain’ the last words I heard before the belt came crashing down on my back. Up it went again and again. Every time it felt harder, more horrible, I fell down, right onto the floor. The pain was something I can’t even explain. But when I went to the floor, down came the strap again,

    My trousers were loose and they slipped down as I doubled up.

    After 8 lashes, I felt nothing except the pain. There was blood dripping down each side. Keith was watching me. Everyone was watching me. I wanted my mother. I wanted someone. I didn’t know why they were doing this to me. It was a mistake.

    Crack! Down came the strap again, and again, and again. In all, 12 lashes. My back was all broken up. I tried to touch it and wherever I put my fingers, there was blood and some cuts in my skin.

    That’s all I remember. I don’t know I got to the Mount Barker Hospital and I don’t know how long I was there.

    A few weeks later, Keith told me that the Major ordered everyone to go back to their dormitory and go to bed. He told them to leave me on the floor. I was apparently unconscious. The Major and the Boys Officer went home, the library door was bolted closed, and I was left on the floor.

    The next morning, Matron Wilson went to the Library to get some wood for the kitchen fire, and she found me on the floor. She was apparently the one who called the ambulance. Thank God for the matron.

    I stayed in the hospital for three days. I wrote a letter to my mother down in Adelaide. I wrote on the envelope the only address I knew – and I gave it to a nurse to post. There was never a reply, but maybe my mother had moved again. She was always moving houses.

    On the fourth day after I was admitted, the Major came to the hospital in his old Hudson Terraplane. He came into the ward. He had a bag of clothes. ‘Put these on and get into the car outside. I’m waiting’.

    And so it was that I went back to the Mount Barker Home for Boys. Lumps and cuts and feeling that God had left me alone I couldn’t wait to see Keith. He was the only person in the world who I loved and needed.


    Wednesday night – the night before Catchup night – Keith and I had a secret meeting. We were both on wood carrying duty, we had to carry wood from the woodpile behind the lockup (where the boys who did something really bad were locked up for a few days). It usually took about 2 hours. The job was to get the long pieces of wood from the sawmill and carry them to the saw bench. The Farm officer then cut the wood into pieces and we had to carry them to the kitchen, the officer’s homes, and to the wood pile. It was heavy work, but it made me strong.

    Keith was rostered to work at the wood heap at 5 o’clock and me at 6. When Keith started, he picked up the first long wood and cut his hand with a nail. He did it deliberately. He yelled to the Farm officer that he was bleeding, and Keith was sent to the matron to get it fixed. Instead, Keith ran to the place we agreed to meet – the dugout under the Little Boys dorm.

    He had blood all over the place when he arrived, but he wasn’t worried. He’s a tough kid. He said the best way to fix it was to pee on it, and he did. Lots of piss. That’s the first time I ever felt piss. It was warm and soft. It splashed on me. The bleeding stopped. He tore a piece from the bottom of his shirt and wrapped his hand in it. He was OK. Another aboriginal lesson. Piss fixes things.

    We had both been late for wood duty 3 times, and the Boys Officer had caught us talking in bed after lights-out. We knew we would be strapped tomorrow night in the library, and we had decided we had felt the big thick strap enough. We were going to make the big escape. Forever. No more strapping, no more blood, no more Majors, no more hell. We all thought this was a big like hell would be.

    The plan was to make an escape at night after lights-out. Keith said he know the way. We would go to Adelaide and stay at my mother’s house. We would do it on foot. It was a long way, but we would take all the back roads, and we would go through all the farms. We would take only a few clothes so the Matron would not notice anything, and we would both take turns at sleeping so one of us was always on watch. We would carry a knife and a shanghai. Not too many clothes. Just shorts and the jacket we would steal from the bathroom (that’s where our lockers were).

    First Keith didn’t want to wear shoes, because his feet were so hard. But I needed something, so we agreed to wear our work shoes (the ones we used at the wood-heap).

    We had tea (that’s what they called dinner). Spinach, Fritz, and 2 pieces of bread.
    Keith sat a bit opposite me and he kicked me under the table a few times. Just to make sure I was with him. I kicked him back.

    After dinner, we all went out onto the lines so the officers could see us, then he called us by number for our duties. Number 14, lavatory duty. Number 26 and 31, to the dairy. Number 11, the Major’s house. Everyone else, to the library for Bible Study.

    That was good. Keith and I had the same assignment. Sitting in the library to read the bible until 8 o’clock.

    At 8 o’clock, all the boys filed out of the old shed. That’s where everyone had to go after dinner every night to stand in line for hand an hour and then sing and say prayers out loud. We waited for them to get to the house (that’s what we called the dormitory building), and we ran over to join them.
    We had already left our bag with our clothes and some bread and a bag of sugar just behind the library.

    When we got to the Blue Dorm (that’s where Keith and I had our beds with 14 other boys), we got into our beds fast so nobody would see that we were still wearing shorts and a sweater. We had already worked out a secret signal between us to start our plan.

    That afternoon, we sneaked into the dormitory and put four pillows each under our beds.

    The Escape

    Keith was a skinny boy. He was lucky. He was the blackest of all the aboriginal boys. You could only see him at night if he smiled. He never wore shoes. He was the fastest runner in the Boy’s Home.

    • Hi tim read the article on the house of hell myself and my brother were there in the seventies milking cows twice a day plus ohers chores as well as attending school, on weekends stacking wood on the woodheap.the officer’s at the time (barstards) were brigadier lawler captain Osborne Sargeant ellis (convicted) captain hunt captain kopp (child basher) was this your era?

      • Tim Skinner says:

        Hi Steve – No, I was there from 1950 to 1960. The officers were Captain Lawrence (farmer), Major Lawler (thrasher, monster), Lt. Athol England (rapist who lived above the blue dormitory), Major WIlson (Matron) and the teachers in the school (near the Lawler’s cottage were Mr. and Mrs. Dent. Nice to meet you.

        • Hi tim sounds like that major lawler was promoted to brigadier as he was there in charge when I was there in the late 60s until he retired.He was very stricked and enjoyed belting us with his leather strape he carried in his pocket.We used to go to the coorong every christmas holidays did u? Did they have a dairy when u was there? Hope u dont mind me asking,

          • Tim Skinner says:

            Hello Steve. 100% correct. Major Lawler belted us every weekend in the library. We had to line up and sing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ and ‘the old rugged cross’ in the shed near the bathroom every other night. He played his accordion. Yes, we went to the Coorong too, and had to find mussels in the sand for him and the other officers to eat. We used to go there on the back of the truck. Yes, the dairy was a big deal. I worked in the dairy sometimes. Captain Lawrence was in charge of the dairy. I was in the ‘early get-up’ team and we had to round up the cows very very early and bring them in for milking. Every Tuesday, Lt. Athol England and one other officer would take 2 boys up into his room (above the dormitories) and force them to have sex with him. Did you ever had to do this? If you didn’t, they had a way to send us to the lockup.

            • We did exactly the same up early every morning b 4 the other kids rounding up the cows only dressed in shorts and mostly cold and hungry. Coorong the same on the back of a old bedford truck .Iwas very fortunate not to be sexually assulted not like other kids dut an officer tried on numerous occasions a captain david osbourne but I got susspeisious and was lucky I guess and kept away from them.Got bashed alot me and my brother got blamed for any wrong doings I must admite we did a lot of damage before we left ha ha,

  3. I was no 44 at eden must have got grahams no after he left the memories still haunt me today at least we are getting justice!

  4. Tim Skinner says:

    I lived in the Eden Park Boys home from the age of 9 to 16. Where can I tell my story? I was Number 45, and after 4 years, I moved to Number 17. I need to tell my story.

  5. Paul Montgomerie says:

    Lewis – It’s so good to be able to still read your blog. There is much of you still with us.
    Just finished reading Graham Rundle’s book “44 – A Tale of Survival”. Horrific sadistic and sexually perverse Salvation Army criminals rampant at Eden Park. I’d love to have a long talk with Graham Rundle and tell him how theraputic reading of his experiences was for me

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