The (Hamilton-Byrne) Family, Frightened Freethinkers and a Review's Rough Ride

Talk by Nigel Sinnott to the Atheist Society, Melbourne, 13 November 2007

My talks over the years have tended to fall into the propagandist "Heroes of Freethought" category. For example, I have spoken about the lives and work of Joseph Symes a hundred years ago and of my old friend Harry Hastings Pearce in more recent times.

Tonight my talk will have a less-than-heroic tone. I will be talking mainly about the timidity bordering on crass cowardice, combined at times with bizarre and authoritarian heavy-handedness, of a few people, abetted by several pompous supporters, all of whom purported to be rationalists and humanists, and how they tried to stop - repeat stop - publication of a review that was highly sympathetic to a book exposing a snobby religious cult that went in for vicious and prolonged child abuse. Yes, I know: you would expect atheists and freethinkers to be promoting such a book. We tend to associate religious bureaucracies with things like cover-ups of child abuse. But not always, it seems!

Well, just to be different I would like to start by quoting some poetry, written by the Catholic priest who gave the last rites to Jack Riley, allegedly "The man from Snowy River":

"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan
In accents most forlorn
Outside the church ere Mass began
One frosty Sunday morn.
The congregation stood about,
Coat collars to the ears,
And talked of stock and crops and drought
As it had done for years.
"It's looking crook," said Daniel Croke;
"Bedad, it's cruke, me lad.
Nor never since the banks went broke
Has seasons been so bad."
"It's dry, all right," said young O'Neil,
With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
And chewed a piece of bark.
And so around the chorus ran,
"It's keepin' dry, no doubt."
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."
- Fr. Patrick Joseph Hartigan ("John O'Brien", 1878 - 1952), "Said Hanrahan".
Another strange twist to tonight's talk is that, just as yawning can sometimes appear contagious, so apparently can the Chicken Little fear that "the sky will fall down". Some Nervous Nellie authority figure shouts, like Hanrahan in Fr. Hartigan's poem, "We'll all be rooned!", and half a dozen people go into a huddle without doing reality checks. What I have to narrate is a combination, I think, of morality tale and sick joke.

It is also ironic that I should be giving tonight's talk in this building. In November 2005, after a Sunday morning public seminar (on the intelligent design controversy) here at the Unitarian Church in East Melbourne, I got talking to David Miller, who had also come along. During the course of conversation, David suddenly asked me - though I'm not sure what prompted him - if I knew about attempts to stop a book review being published some years earlier. I said that I had been the writer of the review. As a result of this conversation I decided to get down to something I had been considering for a few years, writing an account of the extraordinary troubles I had had with this review. And you will not be surprised to know I also agreed with David to give a talk on this matter to the Atheist Society which, back in 2005, was still meeting in the Trades Hall.

Fewer things push up a person's coefficient of smugness than, after sustained opposition and derision, being proved right by time and events. I have rarely been the forgiving type, but I am familiar with the wise old adage that "Revenge is a dish best tasted cold." For these and other reasons it gives me great satisfaction to be sitting before you this evening! As the Atheist Society now has the chutzpah to meet in a Unitarian church, I might have the temerity to mention to my fellow atheists the motto of the nineteenth-century Tractarian movement, taken from the Collect for the second Sunday in Advent in the Book of Common Prayer: "Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest." And I might adapt it for this occasion as: Listen, note, learn and inwardly digest. At any rate, I hope you will find some of what I have to say interesting food for thought.

I will have plenty of opportunity this evening for humour, as I will be describing several people who, by pomposity and buffoonery, made fools of themselves. If you find the jokes funny, by all means enjoy them; but at the same time please do not lose track of the origin or background of this ridiculous yet disgraceful story: the appalling suffering of numerous children at the hands of stupid and criminally brutal adults.

As some of you know, I have since 1963 been actively involved in humanist, rationalist and secular organisations in England and, since 1976, in Australia. But just over ten years ago something happened that disgusted me and made me consider, for a short while at any rate, severing all my links with organised freethought.

From 1992 until mid-2001 the Sinnotts lived in Alexandra, rural Victoria. On hearing that we were going to live there, a friend of ours near Eildon told me I ought to join the Friends of the Alexandra Library. I heard and obeyed. Almost as soon as I walked into the library building, I spotted programmes pinned on the wall for the Atheist Society and the Existentialist Society (back in Melbourne). David Miller had - and no doubt still has - very long arms!

In early October 1995 we had a visit from my friend Ron Marke, who had been secretary of the Rationalist Association of New South Wales and editor for 23 years of its journal, the Rationalist News.

While he was with us, Ron bought at the Alexandra newsagent's a copy of Sarah Hamilton-Byrne's book, Unseen Unheard Unknown, which had been published a few months earlier. It was an exposé of Anne Hamilton-Byrne's cult, The Family. The book interested Ron because many of the events described had taken place near Alexandra at Kai Lama, the cult's property at Taylor's Bay on Lake Eildon.

I knew only too well of the book's existence, but had deferred reading it as I was sure the contents would be very distressing. (After all, I had two young children.) I had read about the cruel and scandalous activities of The Family in a number of reports and features in The Age (Melbourne), mainly in the late 1980s, and I had sent newspaper cuttings on the subject to the (then) editor of The Freethinker, Bill McIlroy, in England.

Ron Marke returned to Sydney and bought another copy of Sarah Hamilton-Byrne's book. He posted it to me as a gift, and I received it on 19 October 1995. I realised the time had come for me to "bite the bullet" and read the book. Yes, it was as distressing as I had feared, but I also found it moving and most impressive.

The book was a damning indictment of the depths of cruelty to which gullibility, authoritarianism and blind loyalty will lead. As I knew the area with which much of it was concerned, I decided I would try to contribute my mite to making the book better known. I wrote an article-length review, entitled "The Cruel Cult of Anne Hamilton-Byrne".

The Freethinkeraccepts but does not publish

I suspected that, by this time, freethought magazines in Australia might already have reviews of this book in hand, so I submitted my typescript to Peter Brearey, who had succeeded Bill McIlroy as editor of The Freethinker. In response, I received a letter (dated 8 November) thanking me for my "excellent piece on Hamilton-Byrne". Brearey added:

Kindly check, amend and return the enclosed proof to Wakefield [Yorkshire] as quickly as you can; I would like to use the article in the December issue of The Freethinker. Thinking as a former Editor, are you content about the legal angles? Have there been any injunctions, threats of legal action or whatever against the author or publisher, etc., etc.? . . . Anyway, if you're happy about such things, I'm happy. I was not concerned about libel because I knew that the serious allegations in the book had been given in evidence in the courts, and had been published in Age articles. Also, Dr Sarah Hamilton-Byrne had been a guest speaker at the 1995 conference of the Australian Skeptics in Melbourne, and - as far as I knew - no one had sued her for what she said at some length about The Family there. However, the question was a reasonable one.

Brearey's letter and proofs arrived on the morning of 17 November 1995. I rang Penguin Books Australia and was assured that the book had not been found libellous by a court and that there was no legal action against it in process. (The Family's leaders were almost certainly keeping their heads well down!) I checked the proofs and returned them in the afternoon post with a letter saying I had 'phoned the publishers and was happy about the legal angles.

My review-article did not appear in the December 1995 Freethinker or, to my puzzlement, in any subsequent issue. I wrote to Brearey on several occasions (for instance 8 February and 30 May 1996) asking if my text was still going to be published. The letters were ignored, and I never heard from Brearey again.

I assumed that Brearey lacked the manners and courage to tell me he was not, after all, going to use my copy. Later I informed Keith Porteous Wood, general secretary (now executive director) of the National Secular Society and also secretary of G. W. Foote & Company, publishers of The Freethinker, about the matter in a letter, dated 22 June 1997, and I added: "When I was Freethinker editor, I would never have treated someone in such a shabby way. Any contributor of an accepted article who asked me why it had not yet appeared got a return-of-post reply."

In December 2005 I received a letter from Barbara Smoker, a former president of the N.S.S. and regular contributor to The Freethinker who had known the late Peter Brearey. She agreed that I should have been notified of any decision not to publish my review, "but at that date I think Peter was already terminally ill" and "I well remember how gaunt and sallow he was looking in his last year." In a later letter Barbara suggested that the Board of G. W. Foote & Co. was probably dilatory in delegating Brearey's responsibilities.

It is just possible, therefore, that someone else took over Peter Brearey's duties, and decided to "kill" the review and not answer any correspondence about this. On the other hand, Brearey accepted the review two and a half years before his death on 9 May 1998. And in his letter of 8 November 1995 he wrote:

Hope you are all keeping well. I have just come through a particularly virulent attack of 'flu, but am feeling much better now - the more so as it is three weeks today since I had a cigarette: I truly do feel much better without them; at Mass on Sunday, could you offer up a little prayer to help maintain me in my intention and desire to give up the fags for good? The Rationalist News response

When I was satisfied that my review-article was not, in fact, going to appear in The Freethinker, I informed Ron Marke and authorised him, probably in late 1996, to offer a copy of the typescript to his successor as editor of the Rationalist News, Peter Hanna.

In due course, Hanna asked me if there were any legal problems with the book. I again rang Penguin Australia, then wrote back saying all was well. I gave Hanna the Melbourne telephone number of the publishers in case he wanted to check for himself.

Hanna still dithered and prevaricated. After discussing the book and my review with Ron Marke, Hanna decided not to publish. The man who was daring enough to describe himself on his rubber stamps as "peter tofeah hanna / 666 / antichrist" did not have the courage to publish a favourable review of an indictment of a child-abusing religious cult. Hanna also told me Ron Marke had called him "gutless"!

Peter Hanna wrote to me on 1 January 1997 about his decision, saying that "As editor I don't think members want me to expose the Assoc[iation] or its committee to litigation, regardless of being remote - unless over a critically important issue. My position is that I do the job as a favor for the R.A., not to have myself in a position to be exposed to possible litigation."

I replied on 30 January 1997 as follows:

Sarah Hamilton-Byrne's book has been on sale for some time, and when I last inquired (for you!) no legal action was in progress against it. . . . If . . . you were concerned about possible litigation, you should have checked with Penguin Australia and, if necessary, asked to talk to the publishers' legal department or solicitors. . . .

The only plausible grounds for not reviewing or publicising Sarah Hamilton-Byrne's book would, in my opinion, be:
if legal action was sub judice;
if action had finished, and the author or publishers or both had been found guilty of libel; or -
if you had serious grounds for doubting the allegations in the book.

I went on to write: Unseen Unheard Unknown strikes me as a bravely written exposé by a much-abused and painfully truthful young woman. Its allegations of wholesale cruelty by an authoritarian religious outfit are exactly the sorts of things rationalist publications should be highlighting - the more often the better.

Sarah Hamilton-Byrne's book, and Kate Davies's When Innocence Trembles, are exactly the sort of publications the freethought movement should be publicising and selling. . . .

When Innocence Trembles, by the way, is an account of the large-scale and vicious maltreatment of children by the Christian Brothers in Western Australia.

I concluded my letter with:

My membership of the Rationalist Association of N.S.W. was due for renewal at the end of December. I am not renewing. If I ever rejoin the Association it will be only when I am satisfied that you are no longer in a position of influence in it. The Australian Humanist publishes

Once Hanna had made up his mind, Ron Marke suggested I offer the typescript to James Gerrand, editor of the Australian Humanist (published then, as now, by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies). I knew James Gerrand rather well, as we were both members of the Humanist Society of Victoria, so I gladly complied.

A few weeks later Ron had the satisfaction of telling Peter Hanna that my review-article had been accepted and was about to be published in the May 1997 Australian Humanist. Sydney's self-proclaimed "666 Antichrist" was not too pleased about this!

However, in addition to holding various positions in the Rationalist Association of N.S.W., Hanna was also a vice-president of the Humanist Society of N.S.W. So he then uttered dire warnings to the Humanist Society's committee about the risk of libel action, and demanded that distribution to the Society's members of the May Australian Humanist be stopped.

The Australian Humanist was, and still is, edited and published in Melbourne. Copies are sent to Sydney in bulk, and are then distributed to members of the Humanist Society of New South Wales with the Society's state journal or newsletter, Viewpoints.

In response to constant pressure from Hanna, the committee of the Humanist Society of N.S.W. decided to delay distribution of the May Australian Humanist until an A.G.M. in August. Ron Marke regarded this as a disgraceful form of censorship, as the issue had been distributed in other states, and he decided to do something about it. He wrote to Humanist Society president, Molly Campbell, and demanded his member's copy of the May Australian Humanist: he received one. Ron also asked James Gerrand for an extra supply of the magazine. On receipt, Ron posted about twelve copies of the May issue to various people in New South Wales with a covering circular letter:

12 June 1997
Dear Humanist Society Member,

You may or may not be aware that your Committee of the Humanist Society of N.S.W. has censored the attached latest edition of the Australian Humanist because James Gerrand, editor, has published Nigel Sinnott's well-written review article on "The cruel cult of Anne Hamilton-Byrne" . . . I understand from Molly Campbell, president of the Humanist Society of N.S.W., that the Committee decided not to send its members this particular edition of the Australian Humanist on the grounds that Nigel's article is libellous and that something was wrong with the present format of the journal.

. . .

I would like to know whether you think Nigel Sinnott's review article is libellous or not. I regard your Committee's action as censorship - presumably from paranoia. I understand that all other members of the state societies have received their copies without any interference from their committees. . . .

In my long working association in the freethought movement in New South Wales, both as an organiser, editor and printer, I have never seen such cowardly behaviour as this. . . .

Meanwhile, James Gerrand decided to take action of his own. He got in touch with his big, bearded friend in Sydney, Barry Williams, editor of the Australian Skepics' magazine, The Skeptic, to which I was also a subscriber. Barry Williams regarded the libel allegations as ludicrous, and offered to republish the review almost immediately. It appeared in the Winter (June) 1997 issue of The Skeptic (with the title "Anatomy of a Cruel Cult"), giving the review a much wider readership in Australia than I had originally expected.

Ron Marke's circular to members of the Humanist Society of N.S.W. attracted a letter from a lady to whom I will refer as W.X.:

Nigel's article . . . makes many claims about the punishment of children [by The Family] e.g. "The children were viciously punished." How does Nigel know this? Can he prove it?

Anne [Hamilton-Byrne] had "plastic surgery and liposuction". Can he prove this?

I . . . suspect that Nigel knows nothing except what he has read about it. I suspect the article is merely a badly written book review: that all the above claims should have been in quotes. If I were editor of AH, I would have asked Nigel to rewrite it properly.

I agree with Peter [Hanna] that sending out the article in our name would be very risky.

It would also be pointless, unless Nigel can substantiate all his claims. If the article turns out to be just a badly written book review we would have put ourselves in financial jeopardy to support someone's right to make unsubstantiated insults.

If it turns out that Nigel really has something important to contribute, that would be different - that would be freedom of speech. . . .

The lady's forte, by the way, was (and I am not making this up!) dancing; and after receiving a copy from Ron of this letter, I had to resist the wicked urge to offer Ms X. dancing lessons in return for her teaching me to write "properly". Instead I wrote to her on 8 July saying, among other things: Nearly all my knowledge of The Family comes from written information. I do, however, know the area around Taylor's Bay well: I have visited the area regularly since 1977, and have lived about half an hour's drive from Taylor's Bay since 1992. I have consulted one or two people in Alexandra and Eildon about the cult and its local profile.

My knowledge of The Family does not, however, come entirely from Sarah Hamilton-Byrne's book. The Melbourne Age reported the [police] raid on Kai Lama (1987) and there were various follow-up stories on it. The trials and sentencing of the "Aunties" were also reported in the same paper. I read as many of these reports as possible, and sent copies or cuttings to the Freethinker (London) and, I suspect, other magazines. . . .

In my review-article I said that a disappointment the children had to bear (after rescue) was "being told that the authorities were unable to prosecute members of The Family for cruelty, as more than twelve months had elapsed from the last date of abuse". It is quite clear that the Victoria Police believed Sarah and the children's accounts of cruelty, and would have laid charges if they could. This loophole in the law has now been closed. . . .

No-one, not even in the seedier reaches of Sydney, has so far tried to tell me that Sarah Hamilton-Byrne is a liar or that her claims are grossly exaggerated. I regarded her book as brave and honest, and of particular interest to humanists, rationalists and freethinkers of all persuasions. My object was to publicise the book and encourage people to read it. If I had written a dismissive or scathing review of the book, then I could understand criticism from humanists. . . .

Ron was further informed, by telephone this time, by a Sydney gentleman - I will call him Y.Z. - that my review was "criminal libel". Mr Z. also wrote to me, offering me the benefit of his legal experience and advice. (By the way, if any of you are feeling the need of a short nap, now's your chance!) The letter stated: I was pleased for you personally and the cause of free speech when AH published your article tho' it is in my view potentially libellous under the "hatred, ridicule and contempt" test. The phrases I deem citable are, in order, sinister sect; . . . viciously punished with beatings, bashing, starvation; beaten "so I can hear the screams"; show "the best way to belt a child"; dosed with tranquilisers to keep them docile; ill children ignored or else punished; atmosphere which was callous, oppressive and manipulative (marginal); . . . services of a compliant journalist; unable to prosecute for cruelty; Aunties sentenced to a few months' jail for social security frauds (defamatory per se if not precisely true; not defamatory if true as stated); extradited to face charges, fined $5,000 (as before); gross cruelty; evil activities furthered by seedy coterie of morally defective professionals; brutal Aunties; doctors who abused LSD; lawyers who fixed up bogus passports and birth certificates; cruel, parasitic monstrosity. None of these is in quotes to indicate an extract from Sarah's book. . . In any successful action, damages are especially heavy where plaintiffs can show they've suffered professionally. But what defendants most fear are the costs, of the plaintiff as well as their own if libel [is] established. Well now, did I regard Anne Hamilton-Byrne and her coterie of bullies, toadies, snobs and child beaters with "hatred, ridicule and contempt"? If I were to reply that I didn't, I hope almost all of you would get up and walk straight out of here.

But if there are any solicitors here tonight who wish to serve libel or slander writs on me, well, now's you chance - and please form an orderly queue!

The legal gravitas of Mr Z's letter from Sydney deflated very rapidly when I read on:

My Reader's Digest Family Guide to the Law (UK) states: "Truth is a complete answer to any defamation action". . . . I can say this is overstated since true statements have been found to be defamatory if it can be shown that the matter involved an invasion of privacy and wasn't in the public interest (this wouldn't apply to your article), and my solicitor recently said . . . "Truth is no defence against libel in NSW." I'm sure this isn't true under common law, but NSW has its own Defamation Act which I haven't read. The Humanist Society of N.S.W. also had the benefit of some official written advice. In a memorandum of 23 June 1997 Mr "Keith R. Rex JP" informed the president and committee that: Mr Ron Marke . . . asks me if I think Nigel Sinnott's article . . . is libellous. . . . It is indeed very libellous, and the HS could be sued for a vast amount of money for publishing it. . . .

While I take pains to write controversial material (since the non-controversial is boring), I am also at pains to avoid libel. Had I written a review of this book, I most certainly would not have written it the way Nigel has. Not only is it libellous, it is plagiaristic and in breach of copyright. Nigel writes as though this is all his personal experience and barely mentions the book in question and does so only scathingly.

When I write a review, I am careful to first give an account of the book and to keep my personal views of the quality of the book and my personal opinion of the subject matter, all separately identifiable. While I cannot be sure, I assume that Nigel is using the book as his primary source. But he does not make this clear and makes many apparently personal disparaging statements about the founder of the cult, which are clearly libellous.

Mr Marke also accuses the HS of cowardly behaviour and claims that the act of holding up the delivery of this AH is censorship. However, I do not regard this as censorship since the object [is] to protect the HS from terminal damages - not to deprive the readers of a view about a controversial subject. . . .

However, since we are faced with a critical legal problem I will give my views on consequences: As to what would happen if we were sued is simple. We would be wiped out - whether we won (most unlikely) or lost. But the real question is What is the likelihood of us being sued. That I would say is vanishingly remote. The libelled party has a lot more important considerations and is most unlikely to even learn of this very tiny publication. What would I think be a greater risk would be a breach of copyright action by the author of the book, which this is supposed to be a review of. However, from my knowledge of her personality, I think that also pretty unlikely. . . .

In due course I received a copy of this memorandum from Keith Rex himself, with a covering letter of 8 July (1997) assuring me that his opinions were "Nothing personal of course - just a matter of law". Rex did, however, take me to task for my very low opinion - in an earlier letter to him - of Pauline Hanson and her One Nation Party.

The Skeptic enters the fray

A few days later I received a letter from a half-amused, half-bemused Barry Williams, who commented:

. . . I must say I am astonished by the attitude of the NSW Humanists and Rationalists to your review. . . . Are they really basing their actions on legal advice they got from Peter Hanna and Keith Rex? Who do they take financial advice from? Alan Bond? Christopher Skase? . . . To put it bluntly, this advice is patently absurd. (Or, to put it even more bluntly, bloody ridiculous.)

I have managed to edit the Skeptic for the past seven years without even a threatening lawyer's letter, let alone a law suit, so I can hardly be called reckless. As well, I have known James Gerrand as a friend for a goodly number of years, and I must say he has never struck me as posing a threat to western civilisation as we know it. I think I have a pretty good instinct for what is legal and what is not (as I am sure James does), but I don't rely on that entirely. My daughter, Pita, is a very competent commercial lawyer and I usually run anything borderline past her for comment - I didn't even think of doing that with this item. . . .

As for Rex's claim that there was the possibility of plagiarism being involved, I doubt if I have ever heard a more risible suggestion (though understandably so, considering the source). Copyright law specifically allows for reasonable quotation for the purpose of criticism, and your article certainly did not transgress that. Further, can you imagine the recipient of a positive review arguing that the amount of quotation used was unreasonably large? They would have to be certifiable. . . .

I hope the Humanists manage to sort out their internal problems, but rest assured, the Skeptics will only be taking legal advice from people who understand the law. Apart from anything else, I thought your article was both good and performed a useful service and an editor can ask for nothing more than that.

As far as I know, no legal action has ever taken against Sarah Hamilton-Byrne's book. In July 2005, however, Dr Sarah Moore, as she was by then known, appeared in court for writing dozens of prescriptions of pethidine for herself. She had been suffering from bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and, according to the report in The Age, pain caused "by an incision in her abdomen made as part of an initiation" into The Family. The presiding magistrate placed Dr Moore on a four-year good behaviour bond and imposed a community-based order of 250 hours of unpaid work. After the hearing Dr Moore referred to the effects of The Family on other people who had been in its clutches as children: "suicide and psychiatric illness and drug and alcohol problems".

Unseen Unheard Unknown was, and is, well worth reading as a detailed description of the horrors inflicted on children by a brutal, morally stunted religious sect. Ron Marke and I still think that the book was well worth reviewing. Efforts to suppress the review led to me stopping my subscription to The Freethinker until a new editor was appointed, and to Ron Marke's resignation from both the Rationalist Association of New South Wales (in which he had been continuously active for 26 years) and the Humanist Society of N.S.W.

After 1997 the fortunes of the Rationalist Association of N.S.W. declined to a level where, in 2000, the Rationalist News ceased publication, and in 2003 a member, alarmed by the Association's financial state, called in the police; but no charges were laid. In October 2005 a general meeting decided to seek amalgamation with the Humanist Society of N.S.W. Only Peter Hanna, who was no longer active in the Association, objected. On 11 March 2006 the members voted for a merger to create the Humanist and Rationalist Association of N.S.W. Inc.

As 2006 progressed, however, the amalgamation stalled because the Rationalist Association's remaining members feared that a small far-right cabal was trying to take over the Humanist Society of N.S.W. And at the end of the year the Rationalist Association's new secretary, Stephen Maxwell, put out feelers to Ron and myself about rejoining. We were a little unsure what to do, so we consulted Ron's partner, Danielle Babb.

On 27 January 2007 I filled in an application to rejoin. Before posting it, I typed at the bottom of the form the words I had addressed to Peter Hanna almost exactly ten years earlier: "If I ever rejoin the Association it will be only when I am satisfied that you are no longer in a position of influence in it."

More recently the Association called a special general meeting on 20 October. Its business was to consider a motion formally rescinding the amalgamation motion passed on 11 March 2006. So, for the time being, the Rationalist Association of N.S.W. is continuing on its own.

Before I finish I would like to express my deep and heartfelt thanks to James Gerrand, Ron Marke and Barry Williams. Their unwavering support was critical in maintaining my morale throughout this sorry and farcical business - though, as I am sure you will have guessed by now, I did not need assistance in maintaining my rage. I am not sure where that courageous whistle-blower Dr Sarah Moore is today but, wherever she is, I wish her and other survivors of The Family every happiness.

Finally, of course, I must thank that earnest and perennial promoter of Melbourne meetings, David Miller. His curiosity and retentive memory prompted me to draw all the strings in this sad saga together. And thank you all for hearing me out.


Berry, Jamie. "Cult survivor ends up in court"; The Age (Melbourne), 1 July 2005: 1 & 2.

Davies, Kate. When Innocence Trembles Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1994 (cover subtitle: The Christian Brothers orphanage tragedy).

Hamilton-Byrne, Sarah. Unseen Unheard Unknown. Ringwood, Vic.: Penguin Books Australia, 1995 (cover subtitle: My life inside The Family of Anne Hamilton Byrne).

O'Connor, Angela. "Survivor of The Family cult spared conviction"; The Age (Melbourne), 5 July 2005.

Sinnott, Nigel H., "The cruel cult of Anne Hamilton-Byrne" (review of Unseen Unheard Unknown]; Australian Humanist (Melbourne), n.s. no. 46, May 1997: 9 11. Reprinted as "Anatomy of a cruel cult"; The Skeptic (Sydney) 17 (2), Winter [June] 1997: 45 46, 48. Reprinted in Frightened Freethinkers (booklet).

Sinnott, Nigel H., "Frightened Freethinkers: A Case of Attempted Censorship." The Skeptic (Sydney) 26 (3), Spring [Sept.]: 42 46. Reprinted in Frightened Freethinkers (booklet).

Sinnott, Nigel H., Frightened Freethinkers and Timid Rationalists: a case of attempted censorship; . . . with a foreword by Barry Williams. Melbourne: Proxima Thule Press, [Oct.] 2006 (booklet; 16 pp.; reprints "Frightened Freethinkers" and "The cruel cult of Anne Hamilton-Byrne").

The Australian Humanist is published by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies; The Skeptic is the magazine of the Australian Skeptics Inc.
Original article: The cruel cult of Anne Hamilton-Byrne

N. H. Sinnott, 1/2 Davey Street, Sunshine West, Vic. 3020
13 November 2007

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