On their own - Britain's child migrants

Samuel Relf

photo of a young boy

Photograph of Samuel on his admission to Barnardo's. Reproduced courtesy Barnardo's

"We in England, with our 470 inhabitants to the square mile, were choking, elbowing, starving each other in the struggle for existence: the British colonies over seas were crying out for men to till their lands, with few ties to bind them to the mother country, and at an age when they were easily adaptable to almost any climatic extremes."
Thomas Barnardo 1889

Samuel Relf was born on 10 February 1878 and was admitted to Barnardo’s on 11 February 1889 when he was 11 years old. He stayed at several homes, including the Receiving House in Stepney Causeway, East London.

Samuel was later selected for migration and, after medical inspection, travelled on a train known as the ‘Barnardo Special’ to Liverpool. He sailed with the 2nd Boys’ Canada Party of 1894 on board SS Sardinian, arriving in Quebec on 9 July. He then travelled by train to the Distribution Home in Toronto, Ontario.

Samuel must have worked hard on his placement farm as he was awarded a ‘Good Conduct and Length of Service’ medallion by Barnardo’s a few years later.

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