Thursday, 22 June 2017

A Tale of Two Countries ...... stories of British Home Children by Norma Davis Cook ... .... part one

The life of a British Child Migrant, or Home Child, was often one of poverty, cruelty, and uncertainty. The homes to which they were sent were not always an improvement on their previous circumstances.
In many cases, the immigrant children were treated no better than slaves.   Being removed from everything familiar and placed into a foreign and hostile environment created a sense of not really belonging anywhere, or to anyone.Such was the life of my grandfather, Albert Davis.

Grandmother, Edward,Albert and Helen (Aunt Nell)
Albert and his twin brother, Edward, were born on February 2, 1901 in Birmingham, England, to an unmarried servant girl named Jane Davis.

Her family name was originally Davies, but she seems to have altered it slightly when the boys were born.

No father is named on their birth certificate, nor on any other known record.

Jane was the eldest in a family of nine children, having one brother and seven sisters.  She entered domestic service as a teenager, eventually becoming a cook at an estate in Yorkshire.

Helen (Aunt Nell)
While Jane worked to support her family, the boys stayed with her widowed mother and younger sister, Helen, at a modest home in Haseley, on the outskirts of Birmingham.

The boys carried fond memories of their “Aunt Nell” all through their lives. By all accounts, they were well cared for and had a happy childhood, even though they were not part of a traditional two-parent family.
As time went on, Jane’s mother grew too old to continue caring for the twins and made plans to move in with her married son.

Edward and Albert
On the advice of a local physician, Dr. John Berlyn , who was familiar with the family’s situation, Jane admitted Edward and Albert to the Children’s Emigration Home in Birmingham, founded by John T. Middlemore.

The admission record, dated March 8, 1912, states the following:   “Nice children, above the average of our class, clean and tidy.  

Children are twins and mother has struggled bravely for them for eleven years.”

The record goes on to explain:   “She has been receiving on and off money from the father but he has not kept up his payments at all regularly as stated in the agreement drawn up by a firm of solicitors.  

He has recently been married so there will be a greater difficulty now in his keeping up his payments.”

Jane was to contribute a portion of her earnings to the Middlemore Home for the support of her sons.  She had been led to believe that the boys would be returned to her when her situation improved.

 In May, 1912, barely a month after the Titanic sunk to a watery grave in the North Atlantic, Edward and Albert Davis boarded the Carthaginian in Liverpool, along with a large group of Middlemore children and journeyed across that same ocean to Canada, leaving behind all they held dear.

They would never return to their mother or their homeland again.

© Norma Davis Cook, 2017

Picture ; courtesy of Norma Davis Cook

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