British Home Children

From Historical Hastings Wiki

British Home Children was the child migration scheme founded by Annie MacPherson in 1869, under which more than 100,000 children were sent from the United Kingdom to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa.[1]. The first mention of the scheme in the local press was in the Hastings & St Leonards Herald and Observer of 20 May 1871 where it is reported that 60 children from Brighton were sent via Liverpool to Canada.[2]

Newspaper Reporting[edit | edit source]

A correspondent to the Hastings Observer reported in 1889 that "...the experiment has been a complete and remarkable success, a much greater success even than boarding out in this country. The reasons are perfectly obvious. First of all, board out our children for nothing; we do not even pay the ss. you pay. We have no difficulty in finding farmers who are ready to take children as fast as they land and bring them up for nothing. We have down three or four times as many applicants as we have children."

"We send them out all ages, from two and three up to twelve and fourteen, but we find the best age for boys about twelve, because at that time they come to be useful in the homes of the farmers. The girls we plant out early at six, and we have no difficulty m finding homes for them. Many here would probably wonder this, it very unlike anything in this country, but it arises from the social condition Canada, and.indeed, of all the Colonies. You have there a very thinly-scattered population; you have farm houses separated from one another by miles • you have food extremely cheap, and you have many people who have no children their own in their houses; the custom in Canada is for children to leave home very early and set up for themselves. Consequently you have a great many married people who are very solitary and desirous to have the company of a child. Then the child comes very soon to of use in a country like Canada; there are a great number of jobs they can do : looking after poultry, driving cows, etc. It is no loss to take children eight or ten years old, because the children are very useful then."

"I believe 2,000 were sent out to Canada last year (1884). Miss Rye took out a great number, and we sent out many with Miss Macpherson's sister, Mrs. Boit. On the whole, we find that ladies do this the best; it seems to fall in naturally with their qualifications. You can see at glance that there is this advantage in boarding out in Canada, that we separate the children from all their bad associations. The relatives are often very degraded people, and a great many Workhouse children go back to their own families after which the State loses control of them, and become a pest to society. We put end that because put the Atlantic between the relations and the children ; and, in fact, if we send the children out young, they almost forget all about their early life ; after ten or twelve years it appears like a dream, and they settle down to the pure, wholesome life of Canada, which is more pure and wholesome than our great cities."

"In Canada there are no idlers; every person is a worker; there are very few temptations; there are no public-houses over a large portion of Canada; they have, by means of Local Option, put an end to the drink traffic over large areas, and we find 95 per cent, of the children turn out well; in fact, I think we have a greater percentage who turn out well than among children of our own class who are best brought up in this country. We have this opening abroad, but it not a work which can be done in merely an official manner. We could not bring the children from our Workhouses into pure, rural, healthy homes like those Canada; the people would not have them; Workhouse children are oftimes contaminated ; they have bad habits of every sort. Now, it is a condition before you succeed, that the children shall be properly trained before they go out; that they shall have gone through a moral filter, so to speak, and have been made loveable and presentable. We give them a few months training at home, under good personal influence, which is the secret of the success of all these movements."[3]

It was reported that 13 boys were sent for training in Liverpool prior to going to Canada from the Ashburnham Road Home, with 5 from the Vicarage Road Home and one from the Mount Pleasant Mixed Home giving a total of 19 since the inception of the Cottage Home Scheme in 1899.[4] The report went on to state that based upon letters received from emigrants that on the whole, the children were leading enjoyable lives.

Mistreatment[edit | edit source]

Many of the British Home Children were stigmatized by the communities meant to foster them. Often they were told by their masters that they were street rats or just ‘workers’ and to make themselves scarce if anyone visited. Some were ridiculed and blamed for any bad situation that developed in the community. They suffered in silence, refusing to tell even their immediate family where they had come from.[5]


Footnotes (including sources)[edit]

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Hastings and St Leonards Observer - Saturday 20 May 1871
  3. Hastings and St Leonards Observer - Saturday 06 April 1889
  4. Hastings and St Leonards Observer - Saturday 09 September 1911
  5. British Home Child website