My novel is currently scheduled to launch in Sept/Oct 2012. Once I have confirmed dates and locations for my book launch and subsequent readings and signings, I’ll post them on this page. In addition, up-to-date information will be posted on Celtic Connexions.
I was interviewed by Doreen Barnes for her local Cable Television program, Readers’ Corner. I spoke about our local writers’ group - when we started, where we meet, how often and where and was asked about my book process. TV Cogeco puts her program online and once they’ve done that with this particular episode, I’ll post the link to it here on this page.
Once again, I gave my William Quarrier presentation. This time was for the Grenville Historical Society at their annual general meeting. Again, it was a good crowd and the subject matter was well received.
I was first approached at the end of September about doing it and at the time, I had very mixed feelings. I love speaking about Home Children, particularly those who came out from the same organization as my father but I never got the opportunity to tell my mum how the night in September went as she passed away before I got the opportunity.
I gave almost the same presentation as I’d given the previous year in Kingston to the Leeds and Grenville Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. Since it’s a subject close to my heart, I never tire of speaking of it. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who came and from the distances some of them travelled. The presentation is detailed below. You can visit the Leeds and Grenville Branch of the Ontario Genealogical society’s webpage here. I recorded the presentation with my DVD camcorder and have finally viewed, finalized, formatted it so my laptop could read it, and have uploaded it in two parts to YouTube. I have to apologize for the editing... but I hope you enjoy my talk.
As I said, I took an hour long presentation and cut it in half, then cut the shortened version into two parts.
William Quarrier, founder of The Orphan Homes of Scotland, was born in Greenock, a seaport on the Forth of Clyde, on September 29, 1829. After the death of his father, a ship’s carpenter, here in Quebec, his widowed mother moved her family into the city of Glasgow in the hopes of making a better life for them. She barely eked out a living for her small family by taking in laundry and sewing.
Even William, who was only age seven at the time, went out to work! His first job, placing the ornamental heads on pins, was in a factory working six days a week, ten to twelve hours a day. This long tedious labor paid him a total of one shilling a week – about five pence in decimal currency! Later, he was apprenticed to a High Street shoemaker but that was not to last as the business went bankrupt. Another placement was found for him, this time in Paisley, west of the city.
On his first New Years Eve away from home – a cold and bitter night – lightly clothed and barefoot William Quarrier – about eight years old – made his way home to visit his mother seven miles away in Glasgow from his job in Paisley when he was joined by a stagecoach. Young William kept up for miles through sheer determination. Once the occupants realized what was happening, they urged the young boy on with shouts of encouragement and threw coins out to the young boy. As a reward, William, eleven pence halfpenny to the richer, was invited into an alehouse where he was filled with cheese and cakes, after which, these same people put him back on the stagecoach and paid his fare for the remainder of his journey.
It was due to the positive influence of Mrs Hunter, who he’d been apprenticed to as a shoemaker and future mother-in-law, that William Quarrier declared his Christian faith. Until attending the Blackfriars Street Baptist church as a guest of Mrs Hunter, the only knowledge he had of religion came from sporadic attendance of the Mission Sunday Schools in the slums of the city. He had heard about God, who took care of the children. This lead him to wonder; however, why this good and kind God didn’t come down from heaven and help the widows and the fatherless.
William Quarrier’s life was forever changed on a cold November night in 1864. He was on his way home from work when he came across a small boy – a match seller – who had just been robbed of his stock and earnings by an older boy. Quarrier comforted the lad and gave him enough money to replenish his supply, but was unable to put the incident out of his mind.
One month later, Quarrier began his shoe-black brigade. Boys were issued shoe shine kits and uniforms, the costs of which would be repaid. The boys would work during the day and attend school, learning to read and write, in the evenings. They were even required to attend Sabbath School each week.
At the end of the 1860s, William Quarrier met Annie MacPherson whose Canadian migration scheme was of great interest to him. It was Miss MacPherson who convinced him to put his plans for a children’s home into action.
In 1871, Thomas Corbett, a London businessman, came on board with the promise of funding for a Home for destitute boys after reading Quarrier’s letter that appeared in the Glasgow Herald and the North British Daily Mail. Later that year, the first boy stepped through the doorway into the Renfrew Lane Home.
Lack of space and of separate housing for girls in need, led to the boys being transferred to larger premises, Cessnock Home, and the girls to the Renfield Street Home, and latterly another house on Govan Road.
On July 2, 1872, thirty-five boys came out to Canada with a group of other children under the charge of Annie MacPherson. Before leaving, each boy was presented with a Bible, a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress, a purse and a good pocket knife.. In addition, they were all given canvas bags containing a cloth suit, two linen suits, four shirts, four pairs of socks, a box of collars, a writing case and a Band of Hope pledge card.
In the first Narrative of Facts he penned for his Orphan Homes of Scotland, Quarrier wrote, "When I was a little boy, I stood in the High Street of Glasgow, barefooted, bareheaded, cold and hungry, having tasted no food for a day and a half, and, as I gazed at each passer-by, wondering why they did not help such as I, a thought passed through my mind that I would not do as they when I would get the means to help others."
In 1876, William Quarrier purchased Nittingshill Farm west of Glasgow near Bridge of Weir at auction. He envisioned a central building, school and workshops surrounded by cottages large enough to house twenty to thirty children in each – girls under the care of a ‘house mother’ and boys under a ‘house mother and father' occupying the fertile farmland.
Within twenty years of the Nittingshill Farm purchase, the village had grown to thirty-seven cottages, a church, a school with faculty housing, a laundry, coach house, training ship, poultry farm, stores, and housing for invalids. With the exception of one cottage – number 4 – the donors of the funds were able to name the building. Cottage 4 was to be named Quarrier Home but was changed to Homelea..
William Quarrier believed that the homes belonged to God and not him so would not have anything to do with the original name chosen.
Cottage 28 – The Sabbath School Home was so named because children from all over Scotland saved their pennies and sent them to Quarrier to pay for the building of a cottage for children.
Between 1872 and 1938, 7,000 children who had been admitted to Quarrier’s homes had come out to Canada and thousands others to locations throughout their homeland.
In 1888, William Quarrier bought a home in Brockville from William & James Gilmour, and George T. Fulford to use as his receiving and distribution home and called it Fairknowe. This home was run by his daughter Agnes and her husband James Burgess. Prior to this, children coming to Canada through The Orphan Homes of Scotland were sent to Marchmont Home in Belleville.
It should be mentioned, that unlike his contemporaries, William Quarrier never solicited for funds. He firmly believed the Lord would provide. A simple notation in his annual Narrative of Facts stating the needs was all he ever did. And if there was a surplus on one project and a deficit on another, the excess funds could NOT be transferred.
William Quarrier had an indenture that was to be signed by those taking in one of his children in their new country. In addition to what the standard indenture of the time said, Quarrier’s added agree to give him good clothing and schooling and treat him as one of the family – till able to earn wages.
Families were screened and each child was to be visited by government representatives but the size and numbers of children being sent abroad made this impossible to complete. Quarrier himself traveled to Canada with the intention of visiting every child who went out from his organization but soon found the task too daunting and was unable to do it as planned.
In addition to helping Scotland’s destitute or orphaned children, William Quarrier wanted to help the young and old who suffered from tuberculosis, consumption as it was called then. His annual report for 1893 included this impassioned plea. “It has been laid on our hearts for many years to make provision for the sufferers from consumption who are so much in need of help and loving sympathy... ”
William Quarrier’s first consumption sanatoria at Bridge of Weir was opened on September 3, 1896 but it wasn’t until May 27, 1898 that the first patient was admitted.
His final project was to help those who suffered from epilepsy. Very little was known about this debilitating disease and those who suffered from it were considered to be insane and placed in asylums. Another adjoining farm, Hattrick, was purchased and construction on William Quarrier’s Colony of Mercy commenced. It was officially opened in 1906, too late for William Quarrier to see his dream come to fruition.
William Quarrier died on October 16, 1903 at the age of seventy-four, two weeks short of completing thirty-nine years of work with
Scotland’s impoverished children and adults, and is buried in the cemetery
in the village that bears his name.
When it was discovered that the home William Quarrier was born in was being pulled down, the stone arch from the doorway was salvaged and reassembled
in Quarriers Village. It stands just inside the main gate at Faith Avenue as the Village’s War Memorial.
Did you know that about 100,000 children came to Canada from the British Isles between 1869 and 1939?
It is estimated that 11% of the population is descended from these children. Given this number and using Statistics Canada population figures, 3.4 million present day Canadians are descendants of these original children. This number is slightly higher than the population of the city of Toronto proper or the combined populations of Atlantic Canada.
Did they have an easy life? No. But, did farmer’s own children have an easy life back at the turn of the 20th century? By today’s standards, not likely.
Were these children abused? In many instances, yes. But by the same token, again by today's standards, many of the farmer’s own children would be considered to be abused. However, the Home Children did tend to bear the brunt of abuse and prejudice more so than their peers.
Besides the philanthropic ideal of providing a better life for these children, there was an economic reason behind it as well. In the late 19th century it cost about £12.00 or $28.00 Cdn per year to keep a child in care, but a one time fee of about £15.00 or $35.00 Cdn would send that child abroad which would eliminate the burden on the homeland. In addition, the Canadian Government paid a bounty of £2.00 for these children.
From the first group of children in 1872, William Quarrier continued to send children until 1897. That year, Ontario passed an Act to Regulate Immigration which incensed him. He suspended emigration and refused to send anymore children to Canada.
In the meantime, his Village continued to grow. By 1897, there were 37 cottages, a church with classrooms, a school with accommodations for the teachers, an invalidƠs home, a laundry, among others.
Children coming to Canada were apprenticed in trades so that they arrived with skills. Boys were apprenticed to joiners, printers, carpenters, shoemakers or learned seamanship by working on the James Arthur training vessel. The girls were trained as domestics by working in the laundry and sewing rooms and by helping with the running of their cottage. House parents were chosen for their trades as much as anything else.
Emigration resumed in 1904, the year after William Quarrier’s death, and the Orphan Homes of Scotland continued to send children to Canada until 1938. Not all of the children admitted to The Homes were orphans. Many were from single parent families who were too poor or too sick to care for them. Some were from families who were able to pay for the child’s maintenance while in the Homes. When children were admitted to the Homes, full control had to be signed over, which included the right for The Orphan Homes of Scotland to send the child to Canada. However, children from Quarrier’s weren’t arbitrarily sent out.
During the planning stages for the annual parties of boys or girls who would depart for Canada, someone from the organization came and asked the children if they wanted to go. This was particularly true in later years. A friend of my father’s told of not being allowed to come to Canada the first time he was asked because when he was told to button his coat up, he actually buttoned it down. His emigration to Canada was put off for another year.
This headstone, in the Brockville Cemetery, was erected by the boys and girls of Fairknowe in memory of their companions.
The Kingston Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society maintains a website here.