Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Ernest's Story

'When the stones under his bare feet are frozen he is sent out to wander, to plead, to pester, to get thrust out of the way and  cursed by some, to get for his match-box the penny for which all the joy and health of his childhood are being sold' - Reverend Benjamin Waugh, Contemporary Review, July 1888. 

Between 1885 and 1894 the Manchester Refuges operated a branch of work called the Manchester and Salford Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. It was a predecessor to the NSPCC investigating and prosecuting neglectful or abusive parents in the courts. The establishment of a Manchester branch by the NSPCC in 1894 brought an end to this work, but not before 9,922 children had been assisted. After 1894 the charity had a close working relationship with the NSPCC and the admission books continued to tell stories of children whose parents were prosecuted by the courts. 

Letterhead for branch

Ernest was one such unfortunate case. His story was brought to the committee’s attention in January 1898. Little Ernest was only 6 years old when he was brought to the Children’s Shelter on Chatham Street. He had been living with a woman in Hulme who had been ‘very cruel towards the child and neglected him leaving him for days without food’. The woman who she rented a room off reported the case to the NSPCC, who initiated an investigation to find and take her to court.

Ernest was admitted to the Garnett Home, No 4. George Street, after his sorry story was heard. Although both parents were alive, Ernest had effectively been abandoned at the age of two years old. The committee was told that his mother had sold him for one pound to a woman in a beer house called the Tramway Inn on Great Jackson Street, Hulme.

The Manchester Refuges took Ernest into the children shelter for a few nights before moving him to the orphan homes on George Street. Here he stayed until the age of 13, when he was emigrated across to Canada, arriving at the port of Saint John on 16th April 1905. His following reports reveal him to be ‘getting a man’s wages of $20 per month. Mr. B. says he is a splendid boy’.

Admission Entry for Ernest
The joint work of the NSPCC and the Manchester Refuges was an important collaboration in the late 19th Century. The former helped rescue children from undesirable circumstances whilst the latter provided them with a home or temporary shelter depending on the need. We would prefer for neither charity to be required today but unfortunately both are still in existence working to help children in need.

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