Hush! Don’t tell the Nuns

The Book

Rock Me Gently


Judith Kellly



What it says on the back cover

A harrowing and moving memoir about childhood and coming to terms with the past

Revised and updated with a new introduction

In the 1950’s, shortly before her father’s death Judith Kelly was left in the care of nuns at a Catholic orphanage while her mother searched for a place for them to live. She was eight years old. But far from being cared for, Judith found herself in a savage and terrifying institution where physical, emotional and sexual abuse were the daily norm and the children’s lives were reduced to stark survival. As the months became years and no word came from her mother, she sought comfort from the girls around her, especially the bright, angel voiced Frances. When a tragic accident robbed Judith of her dearest friend, the memories were too traumatic to confront. It was not until years later. on a kibbutz in Israel, that a friendship with an elderly Holocaust survivor gave Judith the strength to revisit her past- and the orphanage of her broken childhood.

‘Kelly’s story, while harrowing and fraught with sadness, is superbly told and will stick with the reader long after the last page has been turned’. – Sunday Business Post

 ‘A searing account of the emotional and physical cruelty meted out at the orphanage’.  Sunday Telegraph

What made me pick up this book?

 As I looked at the front cover of the book, I noticed a picture of a group of little girls in their swimming togs (costumes)  standing by the sea with a smiling nun and then to it’s back cover with another photo of the author as a young girl.

Somewhat interested to know what a group of kids would be doing with a nun, I then put it down and no sooner had I done that, I picked up again as if it begged me to be read, so I grabbed it (at a bookfair recently) making me curious and wanting to know more why it had been revised and updated not so long after I had read inside that it had been published the year before.

About the book

Rock Me Gently is a memoir of a convent childhood written by a woman who suffered abuse as a child while in the care of Nuns of in an orphanage in the United Kingdom.

Some of the orphanages dotted around the country and abroad (Australia) also shared the same name- Nazareth House.

Harrowing and extremely gripping, this book shares a personal story in which the author travels back to the past in two different times – as a child and as an adult in her late twenties who recalls the time where she was left in bewilderment wondering whether her mother will ever come back for her and relieve her from the brutal hands of women that were supposed to have been kind and trusting and to a time when the author finds her true self on a Kibbutz in Israel.

Is this book worth buying?

This memoir is sad, deeply personal and a sensitive read,  having me turning page after page making me want to reach out to the the author herself and wrap my arms around her telling her that not everyone is bad and that there are some good honest people out there. Of course Kelly is no longer a child anymore,  but she is worthy of a hug regardless.

I admire Kelly for visiting the nuns as an adult, having the courage to come face to face with one of the sisters that she and the other children dreaded. How that same sister never really changed terribly much and how she had taken on a different name which Kelly recalls was never used while she was there.

I commend Kelly for taking a leap outside her comfort zone to spend time in a Kibbutz for it was in Israel, she found herself and made peace with her past.

Rock Me Gently  teaches us so much and is beautifully written without the need to add any more. Not long after the books release first release, many people came forward with their own stories of their own childhoods spent in orphanages. Some from my research I noticed however had spoken out had done so,  but at that time no one had done a documentary let alone a book.

Then there were also some who claim  were at the orphanage around the same time who believed that Kelly was not even there when the tragedy at the sea took place. At the end of this book are several appendixes leaving you to be the judge and for you to decide what you think is right and whether to believe.

This book was first released in 2005  with quotations from various other books considered as plagiarism, but in the end there was little evidence to support it.

A book like this is no easy task to write in any case. What Kelly went through, was horrific and I am glad to hear many others have spoken out and expressed their own sorrows.

It took me a week to read this book, I was that taken by it.

It is my hope now with Kelly’s guidance, that there be a movie made from it, making people more aware and how fortunate she was able to get out after she runs away with another girl. My heart pounded after they ran from the Police station, wondering if they were going to get caught and suffer yet again in the hands of the Nuns.

It will leave you thinking and wanting to find out more as I did long after you finish the book. I have since gone on to find articles about others and I have shared two examples of this in here, one from YouTube a documentary made for  television  (Kelly herself has viewed it).

and the other being an article from The Independent, a British newspaper written long before Kelly’s two books were published.

“Everyone has grudges, everyone has anger. You tried to keep everything inside, but you can’t; it always finds a way out. It’s good to turn your anger outward at last. It’s a powerful emotion that pushes you to discover the truth” (Kelly, 2006 p218).


  1. Hi there! Thanks so much for your kind appraisal of my book, Rock Me Gently, which to my amazement managed to reach number 1 in the Non-Fiction book charts in the UK in 2007. Haunted by the death of my two friends at the convent, I felt almost duty bound to expose the hardship they endured during their short lives. Nowadays I spend my time making films for a charity and anyone else who needs a free film made for them. It has crossed my mind to make a film about my book and once I summon up the courage, I may do so.

    • Hi Judith
      Thank you for coming in and visiting my blog. Your book was beautiful and I throughly enjoyed it. I would love to meet you but alas you are in the UK and I am here in New Zealand. It is an absolute pleasure to have you on here and I hope that you can continue to come and visit. I have thoughts of writing my own memoir on a few of my own life experiences… the trouble is where does one start? Keep in touch! You made my day seeing your name on here this afternoon 😀

  2. […] Fifty years of Silence was an easy book for me to read and maybe it was because of my love of this history and learning of people who have suffered hardship and lives that have shaped the way they are. I enjoyed this book despite it horrific contents as it showed me another side of war, another side to the women, that was somewhat unlike the War Brides book I have reviewed recently.  Jan shows us that war is something we never think will happen in our own worlds yet when it is inflicted on us, we make the best out of the situation and although what she went through and endured over those three months was horrific, Jan was able to forgive the Japanese but never forget. It was her faith that kept her strong, it was also a strong belief that she would be reunited with her family again. For me it was kept me turning page after page much in the way I did in Judith Kelly’s book I reviewed in Rock me Gently […]

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