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Honouring Barnardo Boys in Wainfleet by Rose McCormick Brandon

May 1, 2012

On Saturday, April 28, the Wainfleet Brethren in Christ Church held a special luncheon event to honor Barnardo boys who arrived in Canada 100 years ago. These boys went to farms in the Wainfleet area and grew up in the church.

Lester Fretz, organizer of the event, told more than 200 attendants that their church had been enriched by these young immigrants.

Penny Morningstar, Curator of Welland Museum

Penny Morningstar, Curator of the Welland Museum, talked about organizing an exhibit of British Home Children stories and artifacts. “It was the most emotional exhibit I’ve ever worked on,” she said. She told of a man in his 90s who had always been afraid of mice. As with most home children he hadn’t talked about his childhood. In his last days he revealed to his family that at 6 years of age he was sent to live with a farm family who housed him in the barn. Afraid of the dark, he cuddled up with his only friend, the dog. Mice scurried about him at night terrifying him. The pain of this experience stayed with him his whole life.

Morningstar told of another BHC who, in his last days, ended up in hospital. He muttered in semi-coherence about his early days of suffering in Canada. His family thought he was hallucinating but the man in the other bed recognized his memories because he too had been a Home boy. She concluded that BHCs find other BHCs.

Morningstar remarked that in her interviews with BHC she was surprised not to find anger and bitterness. “They had every right to anger,” she said, “but I found generous people, hard workers, but people who didn’t want to talk a lot about their experiences. The door of information opened and closed quickly.”

Christine Hill, granddaughter of William Hawkins

Christine Hill, granddaughter of William Hawkins told how she and her mother visited Barnardo Homes in London and received documents from his file, including a photo of William and his brother Samuel when they were admitted in 1905. Ms. Hill became teary in her presentation. She explained that even though her grandfather died in 1959 before she was born his plight touched her heart. She shared how medical reports in the Barnardo file showed that the brothers were malnourished, had rickets and other diseases. Both boys came to Canada in 1906. William went to Burney Township.

Mary-Jean Charlton Steckley, daughter BHC William Charlton, told of her father’s immigration to Canada when he was six. He was placed in a few difficult homes before going to the home of Andrew and Elizabeth Sider in Wainfleet. He attended the Wainfleet Brethren in Christ Church with the Siders and as an adult became a minister in the denomination.

Rhoda Marr, daughter of Alexander Cloke

Alexander Cloke’s daughter, Rhoda Marr, told how her father immigrated in May 1909 at age 9. Alexander went to live with a Wainfleet family who loved him. Clark told how this family remained close to them her entire life. She referred to them as Grampa and Gramma. Alexander kept in touch with his siblings in England and visited them. His older sister also visited him in Canada. Clark ended by saying that she wished all Barnardo Boys could have experienced the happy home life in Canada that her father experienced.

Lester Fretz concluded the day by listing some of the names of known British Home Children who lived in the Wainfleet area. Florence Smith Fraser, born in 1897, arrived at age 8. Frank Bright. Fred Taylor, Ken Crier and a Mr. Thwait. He asked for all descendants of BHC present at the meeting to stand. Approximately 40 people stood.

Amongst the fascinating display of BHC memorabilia was a trunk, a Bible, a New Testament, a boot, documents from Barnardo files and many photographs of the children. One man brought his grandfather’s good behavior medallion.

Barnardo boy trunk

Thanks to Mr. Fretz for providing a much-needed opportunity for the offspring of BHC to meet. For me, it was also an opportunity to meet Lori Oschefski and Lori Siddall, two people I’ve corresponded with on-line. Lori O. is related to 13 BHC. She is committed to providing information for the children of BHC and continues to do extensive research. You can read stories of her relatives here and here. (visit Lori O.’s website here.)

boot belonging to Barnardo boy

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Mary Arnold permalink
    May 1, 2012 2:47 pm

    Rose Your article is touching , I am beginning to feel better , but have a sad heart about missing the Luncheon on Staurday in Wainfleet.My MOM in her last days also talked about be left alone in the dark and made me promise that it would not happen again, I always thought it had something to do with living with a Blind Uncle, and the papers I received from Barnardo’s , had a couple of comments about a couple of homes where she was placed, so now of course I am wondering, about other homes, mostly farms. I have given my daughters copies of these papers and am going to have to read them over again, maybe I missed something because of being very upset , my MOM being another BHC that never spoke of her life!!! The pictures that Lori has posted are just awesome and your article certainly gives a great incite , to some of these young lives, …thank you… Mary Arnold,, proud daughter of Nellie Page a BHC….

    • May 1, 2012 5:36 pm

      Mary, so sorry you couldn’t be there on Sat. But, Lester Fretz (organizer) is considering a follow-up event. Will keep you posted.

  2. May 1, 2012 7:43 pm

    What a lovely presentation and touching group of stories. I am moved to hear that the BHCs as adults largely appear to have been positive thinking people, despite the harsh beginnings. That they tended not to speak of it makes sense and I can only hope that they now know, along with my Grandad, that their stories are being told and heard.

    • May 2, 2012 2:11 am

      Cheri – I’m glad you found the telling of this event moving – many of the people who spoke and those who attended were also moved.

  3. May 2, 2012 5:59 am

    I wish I could have been there, just reading these stories stirs my heart. The stories continue to reveal the hardships our parents, grandparents, and relatives had to endure when they were moved here. So very, very sad. At times I wish I didn’t live so far away. I have a niece who lives just outside of Barrie; if I lived closer I could have stayed at her home and attended the luncheon etc.. Oh well, no use crying over spilt milk. Thanks for posting the events of the day. Connie

    • May 2, 2012 12:34 pm

      Connie – it would have been so good to have you there . . . but you’re doing your part, sharing your Dad’s story.

  4. May 2, 2012 10:44 am

    I wish I could have been there, but your report of the day is just fine. I followed some of Lori’s pictures of the event and this adds to what I know would have been a fitting tribute to the children.
    Perhaps one day we will have something here.

    • May 2, 2012 12:36 pm

      Andrew – the people participating in the event had such caring attitudes. Even the curator who had no BHC in her family, exhibited emotion and compassion in telling of her interviews with aged BHC.

  5. May 2, 2012 5:52 pm

    It was a wonderful day Rose. Thank you so much for putting together such a wonderful account of the day for others to share. It was very touching and wonderful to see so many people there interested in our Home Children.

  6. Lester C. Fretz permalink
    January 31, 2013 4:33 pm

    Thanks SO MUCH Rose for creating this page and for all who left comments. Although I served as chairman for the program about the Barnardo Home Children, it was Leonard Chester who did an excellent job in coordinating and directing the program.

    I greatly appreciate all those who posted comments and for those who acknowledged the program in person and in writing.

    Lester C. Fretz, chairman
    Niagara Area Brethren In Christ Seniors Fellowship

    • February 1, 2013 4:15 pm

      It’s nice to hear from you Lester. And glad you mentioned the name of the other person who had a hand in coordinating this event. It was much appreciated, especially by all the descendants of British Home Child who attended. Rose

  7. dorothy higgins permalink
    January 7, 2014 11:13 pm

    Hi Rose, I am glad to see and read more BHC stories. I would have love to know that you had a reunion for them in Barrie Ont. . would love to know the next reunion. Maybe i could go with my sisterand hear what is going on. I would like to wish you a happy new year and the best of health so you can continue your good work. Please write me when your book will be published. I would be interested to buy it. God bless you!

    • January 8, 2014 2:11 am

      So nice to hear from you, Dorothy. There will be a big BHC event at Black Creek Pioneer Farm on September 28 – Home Child Day. For six months after that, there will be displays and teaching about the children. By the way, your family’s BHCs will be in my book.

  8. Rhoda Marr permalink
    June 11, 2016 6:32 pm

    Hi. Rose,
    Being somewhat technologically challenged it has taken me thislong to get this story down-
    loaded. It was very interesting to recall that day and the stories that were shared. If you would still like my father’s story I’ll do my best to get into you. Rhoda(Cloke)Marr

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