On their own - Britain's child migrants

The children

group of young boys in school uniform waving from the deck of a ship
Birmingham Diocesan Rescue Society party for Neerkol, Queensland 1950. Reproduced courtesy Father Hudson's Society, Coleshill, Birmingham, UK.

"We were measured for clothes, given injections and told that in Australia we would ride horses to school, chase kangaroos and do things we had never dreamed of before." LP Welsh

Britain sent 100,000 child migrants to Canada, more than 7,000 to Australia and several hundred to Southern Rhodesia and New Zealand. Child migrants had an average age of eight.

Before 1900 many came from workhouses, or were found destitute and homeless in overcrowded cities and declining rural areas. In later periods they were sent from children’s homes and orphanages. Some parents chose the schemes for their children as they were unable to look after them.

When the schemes began, as many as 300 children would travel together, accompanied by staff from the organising charities. Numbers decreased as the 20th century progressed, with small groups being sent out by the time the schemes officially ended in 1967.


Barnardo's girls on Liverpool quayside 1905. Reproduced courtesy Barnardo's/Topfoto.

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