Saturday, 28 November 2015

Reflecting on the legacy of BHC a month and a bit after Thanksgiving

No one should ever underestimate the impact of the policy of migrating young people to Canada, Australia and other parts of the old empire.

There were success stories as well as harrowing tales of poor treatment and blighted lives.

Signing off form Middlemore, 1914
And as BHC moves to becoming a major area of serious historical study the legitimacy of the policy will become a matter of increasing interpretation and debate.

In the case of my great uncle who had a troubled time after arriving in Canada I doubt that his migration contributed to his wild challenging behaviour.

Canada, 2015
Sadly that was already settled upon him after years in care along with his siblings and the knowledge that his mother had been deemed “unfit to have control.”*

Added to which the vague stories of his father who separated from our great grandmother just five years after he was born will have added to his sense of displacement.

Now all of this I have visited already but as the Thanksgiving festival has all but been forgotten and the run up to Christmas takes over the legacy of my great uncle is exercising my thoughts again and in particular our own family links to Canada.

Great aunt Dolly and family circa 1950s
It is a complicated story because while we lose him sometime after 1925 his insistence that his sister should follow him over in 1925 led to an extended family which we have discovered.

Great Aunt Dolly went over on an Empire Scheme, found the love of her life, settled down and brought up a large family and even returned to Derby where she was born in 1968.

But until recently she was just a name until I found the letters she sent home to my sisters who in the 1970s were “doing” our family history and there was that reference to great uncle Roger and Canada, and the rest as they say became the story of yet one more BHC descendant engaged on a journey of discovery.

Renewing the links, Saul in Ontario, 2015
In the process I become an exponent of BHC history, made some fine friends across Canada and of course discovered my family.

And by one of those wonderful twists has meant that our Saul who is currently in southern Ontario renewed those family links a full century after great uncle Roger left Derby for Canada.  He spent a wonderful week with them and will look back on his three months in North America as a highlight of his stay.

All of which I wrote about recently so instead I shall reflect on my growing number of Canadian friends.

It  began with a chance exchange of emails with Lorri who like me was making sense of the idea that a loved one would have been sent at an early age to Canada in pursuit of a policy to solve the social problems on this side of the Atlantic.

And then as the circle of contacts widened I benefited from a network of support which offered help and advice, led on to the sharing of knowledge and blossomed into real friendships.

So it’s perhaps an odd way of looking at BHC but then as I often say history is messy and it takes you to places you never expected.

Pictures; from the family collections of Andrew Simpson, Jacquie Pember- Barnum and Andrea Pember

*Admission records Derby Workhouse, 1913

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