Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The annual journey of Harriet Smethurst

Harriet Smethurst was Matron of the orphan homes at Cheetham Hill from 1886 until 1923. Within this time she made 20 round trips across the Atlantic Ocean to Canada, in charge of the various emigration parties of girls from Manchester. In the 1896 July edition of the Children’s Haven, Harriet gives a detailed description of one of these trips. 

Girls’ Emigration Party 1898

“The long months of anxious training are over, the busy weeks of preparation have come to an end and on Thursday morning, May 7th, myself and thirty-eight bright, healthy girls stand on the deck of the good ship Angloman of the Dominion S.S. Company.

Our faces were westward and thither were our expectations, for although every one of the young lives around me was of hopeful character, every one of them had surroundings here which would most surely in the future have driven them back to the slums from which they had been rescued. Hence the one hope for my girls was Canada!"

The sea crossing consisted of many days of sea sickness for a lot of the girls and the Matron, the birth and christening of a baby and the first glimpse of icebergs. By 12 o’clock on the 17th May the girls had docked at Quebec and boarded a train to Belleville, taking in their first sight of Canada.

‘Neat Little Wooden Houses’
"The neat little wooden houses with their shading trees and green venetian shutters looking so cool in the hot morning sun, the wooden sidewalks, the shady woods, and lovely bouquets of wild flowers, then the lunch of home-made bread and butter and fresh eggs made the town bred girls all together in love with the place and one girl said “Why Mother, not half has ever been told”.

Marchmont House
"In the early dawn of Monday we reached Belleville and found two omnibuses waiting to take us to Marchmont, where Mr. and Mrs. Wallace welcomed us. Arrived there we were glad to get into the nice cosy beds waiting for us but at eight o’clock the girls were quite ready for the good breakfast prepared for them. After dinner came the most important part of all for Mr. and Mrs. Wallace and myself, reviewing the girls and the numerous applications for them and after much prayer for guidance trying to fix the right girl for the right place! This done, and some kind words spoken by Mr and Mrs. Wallace, the girls made acquaintance with the cows and horses, the fowls, the garden, park and orchard".

From here Mrs Smethurst spent the rest of her time in Canada visiting the girls placed in Canada from previous years, before making the long journey home. She arrived back to Rosen Hallas in July ready to train the next group of girls ready for their new life abroad.

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