Saturday, 16 January 2016

In Ontario with our cousins ................ exploring a landscape and a shared British Home Child

Now there is something about looking out across a Canadian landscape that one of your family might first have encountered a century ago on first arriving as a British Home Child.

And even more so when in my case our Saul repeated the experience on a long three month holiday away from Europe.

Of course if I am to be strictly accurate great uncle Roger was put to work on farms in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, finally settling in British Columbia while Saul looked out on the wilds of Ontario.

But everyone is allowed a bit of license especially when dealing with a country as vast as Canada.

Added to which I have to say I am falling in love with the place.

Not that I could or would want to shake off being a European, this is where I was born and spread out across my continent from the highlands of Scotland, into the dark forests of northern Germany and down on to the Bay of Naples is where my extended family call home.

But that decision by the Derby Poor Law Guardians to send great uncle Roger across the Atlantic began our connection with Canada.

It was a story I only stumbled on a decade ago when a set of old letters from his sister revealed that “none of us received much education; we were in the homes until twelve.  

Jack was apprenticed to Chatsworth House to be a blacksmith.  Mother got his release at 14 and apprenticed him to Fletchers where he stayed excepting war years.  

Roger was sent to Canada at 16 he ran away from where he was took the name James Rogers and got into the army your grandfather was sent to the navy, when he was around 17 he joined the army.”  

That said it would not be Roger but his sister who cemented the link because she went out from Britain in 1925 having been helped by him and one of those Empire schemes.

It is a story I keep going back to and one that has new meaning as one of their great nephews has made it to Canada and been embraced with warm hospitality by our cousins.

Chris, Andrea and their two sons showed Saul a wonderful time and for that I will always be grateful.

I never met either great uncle Roger or his sister who was Chris’s grandmother and our great aunt Dolly so it is fitting that the bonds have been renewed through another generation.

And for me it marks one of the more positive as well as personal aspects of British Home Studies which often quite rightly dwells on the hardships, abuse and unhappiness experienced by those who were sent out.

Like so many others exploring the life of our BHC it has not always been easy and their remain many opaque bits but it is pretty neat to have rediscovered the family we never knew.

Pictures; from Saul’s visit to Ontario and our cousins, 2015, courtesy of Andrea Pember,

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