British Home Children 150th anniversary: commemoration events
The UK and Canada are to remember the children of the British Home Children in a series of linked events to mark the 150th anniversary of the scheme that saw children torn from their UK families and used as indentured labour in Canada.
Beacons of light will be lit across Canada on 28 September, British Home Child Day. Canada’s British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association (BHCARA) has asked communities in Canada and the UK to take part in the Beacons of Lights for British Home Children and Child Migrants Sesquicentennial Tribute by illuminating memorials, monuments, buildings and other locations with the colours of the BHCARA on 28 September.
Many Canadian cities and sites are participating, from Niagara Falls to Toronto’s CN Tower, and there will be a Northern Lights Display in Vancouver and St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh, headquarters of the Scottish Government.
UK-based commemorations in addition to the Edinburgh lights include Birmingham Library being lit in red, white and blue on 28 September and prayers will be said in some cathedrals. St Mary the Virgin Church in Barcombe, Sussex, will leave a light on for the BHC on the 28th and say prayers on the 29th.
HM The Queen has sent a letter of support to a BHC descendant acknowledging her grandfather’s story, the work of the BHCARA and the beacon tribute. Find the full list of events so far at the British Home Children website.
Stories of the British Home Children
Birmingham is also hosting a free exhibition entitled ‘Lost Children’ telling some of the stories of around 6,000 destitute children who were sent from the Birmingham Children’s Emigration Homes in Highgate to Canada between 1873 and 1948, some as young as two years old. The exhibition is running at Birmingham & Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street B3 3BS, from 14-22 September as part of Birmingham Heritage Week.
There are two accompanying talks: Dr Patricia Roberts-Pichette will be speaking on 14 September about the largely positive work done by the Birmingham-based Middlemore agency (Children’s Emigration Homes), based on her 2016 book, Great Canadian Expectations: The Middlemore Experience; on 21 September the negative side of child migration will be represented by Patricia Skidmore, a Canadian spokesperson and author whose mother Marjorie was a British Home Child sent to Canada in 1938 by the Fairbridge agency.
Details at the Birmingham Heritage Week website
(image copyright Canada Collections)