At 105, Walter Goulding is Canada’s Oldest Living Home Child
Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto, Ontario will be presenting a special British Home Child Celebration – September 28th, 2014. There will be special BHC themed events going on all year long, including a special WW1 Commemoration Ceremony to be held on July 28, 2014, to remember and honor the over 850 Home Children who perished in the Great War.
When Walter Goulding was eight, his father, Walter Camm Goulding was wounded in WWI and returned home to England to recover. The day before his father was to report back for duty. Walter’s mother, Kate, was taken to County Hospital, Lincoln in a dying condition. She had dropsy (edema).
Walter’s worried father had his leave extended for twenty-four hours. In that one day, he scrambled to find care for his five children. His mother and his mother-in-law, both poor widows, were unable to care for the children.
Mr. Goulding called on Ernest Geary of Dr. Barnardo’s Homes in Nottingham. Geary dashed off an urgent telegram to Barnardo’s explaining that the Goulding family needed immediate assistance, but only for the duration of the war. “Both parents are respectable and of good character,” he wrote.
Barnardo’s agreed to care for the Goulding children for the amount of 3/ per week.
On May 18, 1916, Walter and his four sisters – Mary (Minnie) 14, Cornelia 10, Edith 3 and Gertrude 1 – were registered at Barnardo’s. (Another child, a boy, died a few years earlier.)
Walter’s father went off to war and his mother, Kate, passed away. Barnardo’s separated Walter from his sisters and sent him to a foster home run by a Mrs. Weavers. He remained there for several years.
When the war ended, Walter’s father, for reasons unknown, didn’t reclaim his son. But he did keep in touch with him. When Walter was 13, he was asked if he’d be willing to leave England for Canada or Australia. He chose Canada because it was a much shorter trip.
To prepare for immigration, Walter was transferred from Mrs. Weavers’ home to the Barnardo Home in London.
While the Blacklocks were good to Walter, they didn’t have children and life on their farm was lonely. “I landed at this farm and I looked around and I said, Lord, where am I?” Walter longed for his family back in England and corresponded regularly with his father who remarried and had another son, George, twelve years younger than Walter. Concerning Walter, Blacklock wrote:
You will be pleased to know that Walter is growing up and is doing fine. He will make a good man some day.
“They were real good to me,” says Walter. “I was with them for almost ten years.” Bert Blacklock had signed a contract with Barnardo’s to keep Walter until 1925. He sent the specified amounts to Barnardo’s each year and the money went into Walter’s account. When 1925 came, Blacklock asked Walter to stay on the farm. He stayed for three more years.
When Walter left the farm, he moved to Ingersoll and found work in a Cheese factory. There, he met his wife, Rebecca (Ruby) McCutcheon, whom he married on October 17, 1933. The couple had two children, Robert and Terry.
At sixty-seven, Walter visited England for the first time. While there, he re-united with his youngest sister, Gertrude and met his half-brother, George, for the first time. Sadly, his other sisters and his father had passed away. At the time, Walter told a local reporter, “I can’t believe it’s all happening.” George said, “I remember my father talking about Walter in Canada and he had a picture of him.”
In their later years, Walter and Ruby moved into the Chelsey Park Nursing Home in London,
Ontario, where Walter still lives. “I love her (Ruby) more today than I ever did,” Walter said at their seventy-sixth anniversary in 2010. At the celebration, Walter recited his favorite passage of scripture, Psalm 23. A few months later his beloved Ruby passed away.
When he speaks about being a Home Child, Walter cries. “My two sons never knew I was a Home Boy.” He told them only a few years ago. He was ashamed.
The pain of losing his family is still with Walter.
Lori Oschefski, Founder of British Home Child Advocacy and Research Association, interviewed Walter a year ago. You can listen to that interview here.