Seymour was three months old in the early 1950s when he was removed from his family and placed in an orphanage run by the Sisters of Mercy. The youngest child in a large Catholic family in Queensland, his father was an alcoholic who was often away from home. Years later Seymour was told that every time his father returned home his mother became pregnant. Eventually the next door neighbour complained to the authorities that abuse was occurring and the two youngest children were removed.
Life at the orphanage was hard for its young residents. There was ongoing physical and emotional abuse as well as poor nutrition and medical neglect. On one occasion Seymour had to visit the orphanage nurse for a toothache. ‘I remember this time I had a very bad toothache and she pulled it out by pliers. I said, "You took the wrong one out”. She belted me and slapped me … She ended up taking two or three of them out … I never really recovered, but I've got top and bottom false plate, false now.’
When he was 12 years old Seymour was given the opportunity to be an altar boy, which was considered a great honour. Because he had little knowledge of life outside of the orphanage, he did not know the priest, Father Murphy, was committing a crime by raping him after church services.
‘He used to invite me over to his presbytery after mass … I distinctly remember him telling me “You are no longer a boy. Now that you are part of the Church you're an altar boy now and you have to go through this sort of business”.’
‘I didn't know it was right or wrong because he told me that “Now that you're a man you have to go through this basically initiation” … He told me it was quite normal for boys and priests to do this … He told me “By the way, this is a secret. You can't tell people that we're doing this”.’
‘I kept that secret until one day I said to Sister Catherine “Sister, I don't know whether Father is doing the wrong thing or the right thing”. I told her what he was doing. She said, “I don’t believe you. I don't want to know about it”. So life went on.’
Father Murphy was not the only person to sexually abuse Seymour at the orphanage. ‘Then we had the milkman … and he used to come and deliver the milk, and he used to take kids out. I remember going out to his place … and he was the same as Father Murphy … The same sort of age group, molesting young kids.’
Seymour is certain that other boys at the orphanage were abused by both Father Murphy and the milkman, but he was never comfortable discussing it with them ‘because I felt terrible about it’.
Seymour left the orphanage when he was 14 years old and took on a manual labour job. He spent the next few years travelling around the country and getting work where he could, but the lack of education received at the orphanage left him with poor literacy skills which limited his opportunities.
At 18 years old Seymour returned to his home town and settled down after finding work and accommodation. He met and fell in love with a woman whom he married and had two children with. After overcoming a gambling addiction, Seymour threw himself into his work and ‘became a workaholic’, achieving a high degree of success. Unfortunately his hard work cost him his marriage and his wife eventually left him. ‘It was beyond repair, she didn’t want any more.’
After his marriage dissolved Seymour suffered depression but was advised by his doctor to ‘stop feeling sorry for yourself and you'll find somebody else. Just move on’. Seymour threw himself into his work, became even more successful and eventually did meet someone else to whom he is now married.
Seymour disclosed the abuse he suffered as a child to his wife several years ago and she has offered to support him in every way possible. However, he has never felt comfortable disclosing to his children. ‘I didn't want to tell them because they have got their own lives. They've got wonderful lives.’
Seymour has never sought counselling because he doesn’t believe it will help him. ‘It's a wrong of the past, you've got to live with it and move on with it. If you don't, it will eat you. It will be like cancer.’ Several years ago the Forde Inquiry awarded him $24,000 compensation, which he used to take his family on a holiday.
‘I often say to myself sometimes - this is why I get depressed - "Why didn't I have a normal life?" Because my life wasn't normal … And every year I say to myself "I hope I see the end of the year”.’
In spite of the hardship he has suffered, Seymour is optimistic about the world and the people in it, and is grateful that the bad times are behind him.
‘I have come across some wonderful priests who were there doing their job - preaching and helping the community. I've come across some wonderful nuns. It's not the Church, it's the system. There are some wonderful priests doing some wonderful work. So I don't blame the Catholic Church.
‘I guess I was the lucky one because I made it. And if there is a god up there, which I believe there is, the pearly gates should be open to all those kids. There should be no questions, because there were many, many that copped abuse.’