Above: John Ramsbottom
Lane, cutting Bamboo, Darwin.
‘John Ramsbottom was fostered out at the age of two years. He stayed with his foster parents for seven years and was then recalled to London by Barnardos.
In 1933, John aged 10, arrived at Fremantle, Australia, in a group of more than 50 children from the Child Emigration Society, en route to Fairbridge Farm School, Pinjarra, Australia. He was placed in Rhodes cottage.
He is remembered for his outspoken attitude and on one occasion for fighting to have justice prevail at Fairbridge. John ran away from the farm because he missed his foster family but was returned. John was a fairly plain-spoken lad who retained the characteristic of writing how he speaks. He was always determined and very honest and open. He didn’t shirk demanding tasks.
He became involved very early with music lessons on the trombone which were given by the head cook and, later, becoming involved in the boys’ brass band.
John left Fairbridge in September 1938 to work on Monty House’s farm.
John WX14836 enlisted, joining the 2/4th MG Battalion. He was taken a prisoner of war taken at Singapore, taken to the Burma/Thailand railway then onto Japan where he was slave labour on the docks at Kobe. He wrote a book ‘Summer Will Come Again’ on his experiences which was translated into Japanese and distributed among schools in the Kobe district.
In 2004 John was invited by the Japanese Government to visit Japan as a guest of honour to share his story as a P.O.W. in the Japanese concentration camps. John was able to speak to many Japanese young people about the challenges he faced and how he overcame them. This was a very special time for John and helped him in putting that traumatic period in his life to rest. John was honoured to have the University of Japan reprint his book ‘Summer Will Come Again’ in Japanese so the young people of Japan could learn from his experience.
John was an early member of the Western Command Band serving 1950 to 1967 up to Corporal, with a stint at the School of Music as a Brass Instructor.
After the war, he decided to discard his association with Jack Ramsbottom and resume his life with the legally acquired name of John Lane.
John Lane was also a well-known author of another book, ‘Fairbridge Kid’ an outspoken account of his days spent at the former Pinjarra boarding school for English orphans. He said “For most of us Old Fairbridgians, we were the rescued children. Most of us were really grateful. It gave us a life. We would never have had a life back in England.”
In the early 90s John’s passion for Fairbridge burned strong and his desire to tell the story of Kingsley & Ruby Fairbridge culminated in him developing and running heritage tours at Fairbridge Village for many years.
In 2004 John’s health was deteriorating to the point where his voice was no longer able to cope with speaking publicly to large groups so he, at his own cost, produced a DVD called ‘Fairbridge – The Vision Splendid’ to ensure the story or Fairbridge would not be lost. In producing the video John commented “Personally, I regard my selection to go to the Fairbridge Farm School as having given me an opportunity for the fulfilment that otherwise would not have been available in the ‘Old Country’. For this I am eternally grateful. I join the majority of Old-Fairbridgians who remain ever mindful of the heroic struggle, tenacity and dedication expounded by Kingsley and Ruby Fairbridge in establishing their Farm School against enormous odds and almost insurmountable difficulties.”
While not being well enough to speak to large groups John would still take time out to come out to Fairbridge to share his personal story to the Fairbridge Kids of today and to encourage them through his own story that from difficult circumstance, with support, you could succeed. John was very proud that the vision of Kingsley still continued on today as Fairbridge worked to help young people in need reach their full potential. Just a few days before he passed away his wife Ronda had brought John out to Fairbridge Village and he again commented on the importance of keeping Kingsley Fairbridge’s vision alive.
In 2005, John’s dedication turned to the construction of a replica cottage at Fairbridge Village. John dreamt up the project as a dedication to his foster mother in England, Rosa Nobes, whom he fondly remembers as being the only mother figure he truly knew as a child. Before arriving at Fairbridge, at the age of two John had been placed into the care of Dr Barnardo’s Homes near London, and soon after went to a foster family in the idyllic rural Cotswolds for six years. His time there, with foster mother Nobes, he remembers as the happiest years of his life. With John and Ronda funding a lot of the project themselves, the cottage replicates the one in which he lived in during his stay at Fairbridge. Not only is the cottage a dedication of his love for Rosa Nobes but also a symbol of John?s admiration for her lifetime of devotion to foster care. His dream became a reality in December 2007 as the Rosa Nobes Replica Boys Cottage was officially opened by the Governor of Western Australia.
John was awarded with the title of Peel Senior of the Year in 2006.
His books are for sale through the shop at Fairbridge and are still available through local and online bookshops.
John died in his sleep in the early hours of Tuesday, 24 June, 2008 at the age of 86. He had been in a Nursing Home for a few weeks. His Motor Neuron Disease condition meant that he was not feeling any pain and for some time he had been carrying a broken shoulder, sleeping on it and doing everything as normal. John was always stoic and upbeat even to the end. His life was celebrated at a gathering of 150 of John’s family and friends held at the Old Fairbridgians Clubhouse at Fairbridge Village in Pinjarra on June 28, 2008.’