Clippings of the Barnardo Home Boys and Girls

Clippings of the Barnardo Home Boys and Girls
A letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen March 16 1928. B. Roberts Barnardo boy writes from Lanark, Ontario.

We have four Barnardo branch homes In Canada where children are received upon arrival, and from whence they are placed on farms and in home, and where in case of need they can and shelter and can appeal for advice or assistance. Each of them arrived here with their small belongings contained in a wooden box, which had been crafted by Barnardo’s boys who had been trained in carpentry. By great coincidence, a local family who had read about the forthcoming talk, had one of these boxes, and it was loaned to the Society for the evening. Still inside it was a list of the contents from clothing to toilet goods to Bible and Hymn Book. It was a poignant reminder of the many children who came to start a new life here.

There is a great demand for them, for, as you know, farm labour is just as scarce in Canada as it is in the United States, and there are ten applications for every boy we have.


The same is true for our girls who are trained for domestic servants. They get an excellent training and when they are old enough to be sent to Canada they are put in the best homes with generous. Christian people, who are familiar with our work. We could find homes tor ten times as many as we are now lending, but In making up our emigration parties we are always careful to select young men and young women who are suited to Canadian farms and domestic situations.

If you want the exact figures of those gone to the bad. and only a small percent have turned out to be worthless because of insolent and restless nature, bad tempers, insubordination, and vicious tempers Some of them have run away from their homes and we have found them. Others have been sent back to us as incorrigible, but we have never lost sight of any of our emigrants.  Ottawa Citizen 1903

The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
29 Jul 1910, Fri  •  Page 2
The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
25 May 1906, Fri  •  Page 3

Between 1868 and 1930, about 30,000 young children were shipped to Canada to start a new life. They were known as Barnardo Children, named after Irish physician Thomas Barnardo, who gave up medicine to rescue homeless waifs off the streets of England with a missionary’s zeal. The children received board and training until foster homes or jobs could be found. But as employment dried up in Britain, Barnardo and his contemporaries believed it was in the children’s best interests to tear them from their families and foster families and ship them to vast colonial lands of opportunity : Canada and Australia. Girls were usually taken in by families to work as domestic help, and boys were sent to farms to labour in the fields. They did what they were told in return for room and board and meagre wages.

Barnardo was interested in getting desperate children off the streets of London and, eventually, other British cities. His original plan was to prepare these waifs as domestics and workers but, when the numbers became overwhelming, he got into the “export” business by sending them to the colonies – Canada was probably the largest recipient and the British government paid the fare.

Their motives were benevolent they wanted to see the kids were taken care of. Then it quickly went wrong. The Canadian government paid the groups $2 for each child, and a cash bonus of $5,000 for every 1,000 children they sent. The organizations sold the children as slave labour, the Canadian government bought them. The scheme was about money.

The children were not prepared for the harsh climate of Canada. Nor were they ready for the discrimination they encountered. The British organizations regarded the Home Children as fine British stock that would improve the Canadian gene pool, but the Canadians welcomed them only as cheap labour. They accepted the prevailing attitude that the children had “tainted blood,” and were criminals, imbeciles, thieves and carriers of syphilis. Under the Canadian Master and Servant Act, the children were bound to work for their sponsors until they were 18, and were subject to fines and imprisonment if they ran away. There were signs on local Canadian businesses that said, “No English need to apply for work here!”

 It is an era of Britain’s shame – and Canada’s, too. Americans had slavery, and Canada had something close to it

The Times
London, Greater London, England
24 May 1910, Tue  •  Page 45

John Stacey Lanark County

This Bernardo medal belonged to Robert Stacey’s father who was a Bernardo Home Boy. These medals were given out to those who were ‘ good boys”
This is Robert Stacey‘s father John. He came over to Canada with the other home boys via Barnardos.
Roy was my brother, and Lillian was my sister. Bob Stacey-The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
21 Dec 1918, Sat • Page 19

Once in Canada, the Barnardo children were first sent to distribution centres, until a suitable placement could be found for them. These placements were generally labour-based: a Barnardo child might expect to work on a family farm as an agricultural labourer, or as some other form of domestic servant. Although there are some examples of Barnardo children being adopted by the families who took them in, these instances appear to be quite rare. A lot of the children were made to sleep in barns –not fed very well and a lot of them were physically abused, whippings and beatings, some girls sexually abused. Charles Bradbury, a young teenager who, in 1897, worked on a farm in Goderich, Ont., and got into a scrap with the farmer’s son. That evening, Bradbury’s body was found in a burned-down barn. His throat had been slashed.

British Home Children in Canada– Click here

Thomas Bonner

The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
13 Apr 1907, Sat  •  Page 8

John Gillies, Arthur Edmond and Arthur Sicard

The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
21 Aug 1897, Sat  •  Page 5


The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
11 Jun 1896, Thu  •  Page 7


The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
08 Jun 1908, Mon  •  Page 6

Frederick Townsend

Related reading

Home Boys and Family–Mallindine Family — Larry Clark


Lily Roberts of Drummond The Rest of the Story

Canadians Just Wanted to Use me as a Scullery-Maid

Laundry Babies – Black Market Baby BMH 5-7-66

British Home Children – Quebec Assoc click

Ontario East British Home Child Family click

British Home Children Advocacy & Research Association click

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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