Seacliff: A Regular Boy Within by Susan Tarr


The Lost and Forgotten Children of New Zealand’s Early Mental Health System 1926-54- this is Malcolm’s story.

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When his mother died, Malcolm at six years old became one of the ‘lost’ children of that time, those forgotten or abandoned by their families.
His young life was spent in the SEACLIFF MENTAL HOSPITAL, situated north of Dunedin, New Zealand, where he grew up mirroring many of the mannerisms of the other hospital children. All the while he knew that he was different from them.
Malcolm’s story is one of tragedy, and yet, with an admirable strength, courage and innate resilience, he ultimately rose above it all, and was able to free the ‘regular boy within’ as he had always wanted.

From the author:
Inspiration for SEACLIFF: A REGULAR BOY WITHIN comes from a collection of shared experiences and recollections of family, workmates and friends from the time. For his protection, and the purpose of this work, the main character, Malcolm, is written as fiction.
I was raised in the community of Seacliff Village during the time when young patients from the Seacliff Psychiatric Hospital often attended our little primary school. Most of my family worked at the hospital so from a young age, we absorbed stories; it was difficult to know where the truth ended and fiction took over. To separate the two at this stage would be an impossible task as many have died, so I have blended various stories in this work.
Where SEACLIFF A REGULAR BOY WITHIN does differ, is in the humour. Because it is such dark subject matter I felt strongly that there had to be some levity in it. You had to have a lot of stuff to break that up because nobody wants to read something that’s just desperately miserable.

“In Tarr’s moving story of one fictional boy’s journey through Seacliff’s version of New Zealand insane asylums, with all its tragic-comic consequences, many unasked questions about why large psychiatric institutions have now been closed are answered. This gripping gothic tale, told and retold then assembled into an integrated and compelling story is a must-read for those touched by institutionalisation.”
Dr Tannis Laidlaw, Psychologist


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