Recently, it’s come to light that my great grandfather, John Moors, was among the thousands of British Home Children who were sent, by ship, to Canada to spend their childhood years working for others. In our family’s case, John was the only son of five children and in August of 1889, he crossed the Atlantic on the Parisian, along with 71 other children and in his case, he was sent out from Stratford to work on a heavily wooded farm in the Arthur, Ontario area, near Guelph. He was separated from his family for almost nine years.
This is further substantiated by my Grandfather’s narrative,
“My father was born in England. He was a tall, big man with pale blue eyes and shiny red hair. It wasn’t very often necessary for Father to physically discipline us. It seemed to me he just needed to look at you and his eyes looked right through you.
He was sent out from England when he was a boy of about nine years of age (the age of 13 is substantiated by records), the only boy in a family of five children. He went into the bush country of Ontario as a stable boy. He lived in Arthur, not far out of Guelph, Ontario. Now, when he went out there, there was a hardwood forest in that part of the country. He worked there, the only member of his family in North America – until his father came out to Canada eight years later. Father became a foreman in a lumber mill which was hard, rough work in those days. He met Mary Eleanor Haddow in Hamilton, Ontario and they married.”
Yesterday, I attended the Mountain View Art’s Festival in Didsbury and there, met several descendents of British Home Children and had opportunity to meet John Vallance, himself, a Home Child of Scottish decent. He and I both ordered liver and onions in the small town cafe and it was awesome to sit and hear him share his story and his memories.
I have much to learn and read about and will now pursue more information about the status and placement of my great grandfather. It was not unusual for detailed descriptions of the children to be recorded, in regards to their appearance and behaviours as they were carefully inspected before their placements, many coming out of orphanages, long before separated from their mothers, fathers and siblings. Each child came to Canada with their standard wooden box filled with a specific list of belongings. Often the children were photographed as a matter of record as well. I am looking forward to learning more about this and encourage you to visit a number of sites related to this subject. I warn you that most of these stories are heart wrenching.
It was a blessing that John was later joined by his family who immigrated to Canada, his father, John Moors, along with his wife, Grace and their daughters Second Class on the Dominion from Liverpool to Montreal in 1900. I count our family among the fortunate ones, given this particular time in history.
Thank you to Bruce Skilling, Alberta Director of the British Home Children Advocacy & Research Association for his warm welcome and information. It was good to meet Hazel who created the beautiful quilt in commemoration of the 2010 year of the British Home Child and nice to share a meal with Connie! I am also very grateful to Lori Oschefski who has been working tirelessly, creating a data base and opening up the conversation about the stories of thousands of broken families and lost souls.