An interview with Annie Cairns, 2003
“In 1980, I was staying with my daughter in Saint John, NB as my husband was quite ill and in the Hospital. One day after visiting the hospital, my daughter pointed out an article in the Saint John Newspaper. The article was from George Barrett. Mr. Barrett related the story of visiting the Bank in England, where he had put in the savings he had earned while working odd jobs in England when he was young. Not only were the savings still there, but also the interest that it had earned. Mr. Barrett had been one of the many children sent to Canada after being placed in the Middlemore Home of Birmingham, England. He encouraged anyone who saw his article and who was also from the same Home, to contact him.”
With the public release of the Middlemore records from the J.T. Middlemore Homes of Birmingham, UK in the late 1990’s, it has been much easier for Home Children and their descendants to attain family records from this Sending Agency on the records held in our National Archives. These files may include the circumstances that brought about the Child being sent to a Home, the child’s age, address last known, and possibly family members. Yet so many in our Canadian population have yet to discover their British Heritage. This may be to the fact that our ancestors seldom spoke about their origins to the United Kingdom or even that they were, in fact, a Child Emigrant. There were several factors that would account for their silence. The fear of being humiliated, or the fact that they came from broken homes where poverty and violence were evident, may offer some explanation to their silence. Research assistance is offered at the reunions for families. Direction to the National Archives and the BIFHSGO, has made it much easier to find this valuable information.
The Honorable Brenda Robertson, whose father was a Home Boy, gave a heart-warming account of her father’s struggles and accomplishments. It was a great pleasure to have Mrs. Robertson with us.
Dr. Patricia Roberts-Pichette, coordinator of the Middlemore Project for the BIFHSGO, spellbound the audience with her vast knowledge of the Middlemore Homes, the conditions of Birmingham and explained the troublesome times that accounted for such a migration scheme to be put into place to protect these young children from death, violence and poverty.
Authors and journalists, Michael Staples and Ted Jones both of the Fredericton area, have given the gatherings remarkable discussions from their involvements with the British Emigration story.
Shirley Hodgson, past chair of the Bristol and Bath Historical Society, Bristol, England, visited with us in 2005. Shirley brought with her a wonderful and eye opening account of life in cities during these trying years in Great Britain.
Leslea Mair of Zoot Capri Entertainment, Regina, Saskatchewan, visited with us in 2007. Her initiative was to produce a documentary with descendant’s struggles to identify and search out other family members, from the Home Child’s separated siblings, living in the United Kingdom.
Councilor Reginald Corns, a former Middlemore resident himself, has joined our reunions on two occasions. Along with his regular council duties, Mr. Corns is also a nominated representative and member of the Governing body of the Middlemore Charitable Trust. Mr. Corns has played a tremendous role in advancing the awareness to the situations facing the descendant’s search for assistance within his own City of Birmingham.
Also attending as a guest speaker, for the Sept.20th/2008 reunion, was Hon. T.J. Burke of Fredericton. In September 2009, John Sayers of BIFHSGO and David Lorente founder of Home Children Canada, were both present to offer their expertise and advice to our attendance.