Saturday 19 May 2012

Happy Birthday, Daisy!


Imagine a Child so Small and Wee
Never to Climb on their Mother's knee,
With No One to love them
Or Kiss them Goodnight,
No One to Hug Them
or Scatter their Fright.

Imagine a Ship a Zillion times bigger
Children shipped Steerage Passage litter,
From England, Ireland, and Scotland they came,
Germany, Iceland a Barnardo/Home child, No-Name,
To shores of Canada, US, Australia
And Rhodesia were brought
Emmigrant children - a Little Know Not.

Hidden away from parents and Kin
Cheap Labour for the Farm people Then,
Doctors, Lawyers, and Heads of State
What Pockets were lined at Governments gate,
Yes! We are the Relatives and the Next of Kin
To Forget Who They Were,
Is Canada's Great Sin.

Isabel Hays

It was on this day in 1894 that my great-grandma, Daisy Blay, was born.  She was one of 100,000 home children to immigrate to Canada from England as an indentured servant (see my blog post "British Home Children" dated August 1, 2011).   A third of these children were orphans; however, two-thirds were not orphans, but their surviving parent could no longer afford to raise them. 

Canada opened its doors and offered them a place to live and work, as it was a fast growing nation in need of cheap labour.  Some of the children were fortunate enough to reside with sponsors who treated them as part of their family.  However, others were treated as nothing more than hired help, sleeping in the barn with the animals.  Many of them missed out on the love of their siblings.   Some of them were fed well; however, others were given a minimal amount of food.  Some of them attended school; however, others missed out on an education because farm work took precedence.  All of them missed out on the love of their parents.  All of them missed out on the family traditions that their parents would have passed down to them.  All of them missed out on a normal childhood.

Australia also took in British Home Children.  Recently their government offered an apology to them for the abuse that they endured while working for sponsors there.  The British government also offered an apology for their role in child emigration.  Canada has issued a home child stamp; it has designated a British Home Child Day (September 28).  However, the Canadian government still refuses to issue an apology to the group which helped build this nation.  Not only did the home children contribute to the running of Canadian farms, but they also served in the First World War (11,000).  When Canada industrialized, many of them went to work in our factories. 

While an apology won't undo the harm that has already been done, it would acknowledge that the mistreatment did happen.  I never knew my great-grandma, but by all accounts, she was not a bitter women.  She did not hold it against others that she had a hard life.  She was a kind and loving wife and mother.  And she was indicative of many of the home children.  Happy Birthday, Daisy!

For more information on the British Home Children, visit


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