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Child Emigration from Liverpool

Byrom Hall opposite  Great Crosshall Street
and the adjoining premises
Late in the 1860s Alexander Balfour and Stephen Williamson, partners in the Liverpool ship owning firm of Balfour, Williamson and Co., became concerned at the numbers of destitute and orphaned children in Liverpool. Balfour along with another Liverpool ship-owner, John Houghton, heard Annie MacPherson lecturing in London on her work with child emigration. Her sister, Louisa Birt, who assisted in her work, came to Liverpool to lecture about their work at a public meeting, which was held in November 1872. It was agreed that a society should be established in Liverpool to further this work, with the fundraising and management of the home to be kept separate from the London organisation. John Houghton offered the free use of premises adjoining the old Byrom Hall Baptist Chapel in Byrom Street, which was formally opened on the 1 May 1873. This became the Liverpool Sheltering Homes, the purpose of which was to rescue destitute children, train them in the home, and accompanying them to Canada. From Marchmont House in Ontario they were placed with families although they were supervised and visited until they reached the age of eighteen. In 1889 the Liverpool Sheltering Homes moved into a new Home in Myrtle Street.

The Liverpool Sheltering Home Myrtle Street

Lousa Birt
Following the death of Louisa Birt in 1915, the family involvement was continued by her daughter Miss Lilian Birt. During Louisa Birt's lifetime an estimated 6,000 children were sent to Canada. The Home closed during the First World War but reopened in 1919. Six years later it was amalgamated with Dr. Barnardo's, who closed their own Home in Liverpool and transferred to Myrtle Street.The Home was used as a training centre for boys before they migrated to Canada. In the late 1920s, as migration to Canada ceased, it was used as a home for schoolboys until it closed in 1935. The records are held at Liverpool University as part of the Barnardo's archive.

Father Nugent of Liverpool, through his Nugent Society Care Homes, was the first of the Catholic organisations to send children to Canada. He made arrangements with local parish priests who were to place the children with local families in Quebec and Ontario.

Some of Father Nugents boys
leaving Liverpool for Canada

In 1870 a small party of 24 children and Father Nugent set sail for Canada, and Father Nugent became a pioneer in finding new homes, new lives and new opportunities for destitute children. On their arrival he embarked on a nine month lecture tour of Canada and America, pleading the case for "Nobody's Children". His argument was that "poverty is no crime, but a misfortune".

The Salvation Army founded by William Booth assisted emigrants to Canada in the late 19th century, especially children up until World War One. After the War they sent migrants to Australia, especially farm boys who were trained at its special training camp at Riverview, Brisbane. In the 1920s the Army chartered the Vedic to make four voyages with emigrants to Australia.

Established in 1870 by Leonard Shaw and Richard B. Taylor and took part in the child emigration scheme, primarily to Canada and then through the Child Emigration Society from about 1918. Owned the Marchmont Home in Belleville, Ontario, Canada until 1915 when it was taken over by the Liverpool Sheltering Homes.

Children at the Marchmont Home in Belleville, Ontario

Records relating to child migrants may be held in the archives of the recipient countries:



Liverpool Central Library
Liverpool Museums
Liverpool Records Office
Canadian British Homes
National Archives

By Robert F Edwards

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