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At 105, Walter Goulding is Canada’s Oldest Living Home Child

January 8, 2014

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.

Walter Goulding, age 8

Walter Goulding, age 8

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.

Mary 14, Cornelia 10, Walter 8, Edith 3, Gertrude 1 Goulding

The innocent faces of Mary 14, Cornelia 10, Walter 8, Edith 3, Gertrude 1 Goulding

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.

IMG_3099-002A short time later, Walter sailed to Canada with 134 other young immigrants. He arrived September 23, 1921 and was immediately placed on the farm of Mr. Bert Blacklock of St. Paul’s, near Stratford.

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.

George & Walter Goulding at their reunion

George & Walter Goulding at their reunion

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,

Walter today

Walter today

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.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Mary Arnold permalink
    January 8, 2014 9:07 pm

    it’s something that we have a hard time to realize, and the fact that these chidren NEVER spoke of the lives they had as BHC, still saddens my heart. Was it pride, fear, or ignorance of who they really were or belonged to.?? Another great job of telling this story, all these children, had one thing in common the secresy of the life they had …………Great job , Rose, ……Mary.

    • January 9, 2014 3:42 am

      Mary, I too wonder at their silence. I believe it comes from shame. Like all children they struggled to fit into their circumstances but that was often not possible.

  2. January 8, 2014 10:30 pm

    A wonderful write up Rose, Walter’s story continues to touch me! At the time of the interview, Walter was 104 years old and was the most amazing person I have ever met. His memory was spot on! It was heartbreaking to his this great man sob his heart out on my shoulder for the unwarranted shame that was afflicted upon him and all the Home Children in this country.

    • January 9, 2014 3:40 am

      One good thing that’s coming out of Walter’s tears and pain is that he is, in a way, becoming the face of British Home Children. Because of him, more people will learn about the children.

  3. January 9, 2014 5:07 pm

    The interview was touching. I could feel his pain. Bless him for sharing what must be so difficult to talk about.

  4. January 10, 2014 9:09 pm

    Wow, what a story. Imagine celebrating a 76th wedding anniversary, among other things. I am amazed at the tremendous variety of experiences the Home Children had–some good, some bad, some terrible. It’s interesting that Walter was ashamed despite having fairly good experiences. Attitudes were so different back than and we get a feel for the stigma of being an orphan and a Home Child from the story Anne of Green Gables. Thank you for this and all the stories, Rose.


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