Thursday, 16 August 2012

Letters and reports from British Home Children

Yesterday I was looking at a selection of indenture forms and applications made by Canadian farmers who wanted British Home Children to work on their farms.

For me they represent a powerful link with the men and women who were charged with the responsibility of caring for these young people.  And I rather think it is time to bring them out of the shadows.  Good, bad, happy or sad, their stories interest me as much as the children.  Some will no doubt reaffirm the conviction that home children were often exploited, neglected and abused and that their presence was vital to the success of agriculture in certain parts of Canada.

But there is also the contradictory evidence and that I hope will also be revealed.  History is messy and sometimes the neat and simple models just don’t work. So for every story of abuse and neglect there is a Tom Bowers pictured above.

His can be found in the blog produced by the Together Trust which was formally the Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuge and who settled children in Canada from the early 1870s up to the Great War.  The blog is a wonderful treasure house of stories and pictures including letters and reports that were sent back to Manchester.

They take us directly into the lives of those young people and open up the door to how they were treated and the role of their farming hosts. 

There were those at the time who pointed to critical reports and moving letters from children highlighting the harsh side of life on remote farms which at the very least proved challenging to city children cut off from family and enduring harsh winters and unrelenting hot summers.*

By contrast there were success stories like that of Thomas and Francis “an old Refuge boy and Cheetham Hill girl” contained in the official report.

Both were from Manchester sent out as BHC, where they met, fell in love and got married, forging a strong relationship with a local farmer, who employed both of them and rented them somewhere to live.

Now I have never been one for lifting other people’s research especially when they do it better so I will point you towards where Liz the archivist tells the full story and touches on other successes as well as love stories from the letters sent home.

Pictures; courtesy of the Together Trust.

No comments:

Post a Comment