Friday, 18 January 2019

New year, new beginnings

Much has been discussed in this blog about the emigration of the many young orphans of the Manchester and Salford Boys' and Girls' Refuges and Homes (and those in the care of other charities) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Whilst the idea of the mass migration of vulnerable young children who had undergone life changing and traumatic events actions is unthinkable in the present day, it is, however, important to acknowledge and understand the circumstances which led to this. The first question we may now ask is whether the actions of these organisations was fully in the interest of the children: did places like Canada truly offer a new beginning, far removed from the poverty and squalor of urban Britain, or did the removal from familiar surroundings and family simply compound a child’s isolation and suffering? Did these wealthy philanthropists even consider such effects on the child, and were they truly motivated by philanthropic ideals or a need to remove the problem from their doorstep and provide a cheap workforce to the colonies? To begin to address these questions we will look at the stories of two girls, Mary Ann and Harriett who made the long journey to Canada together in May 1898 aboard the S.S. Dominion under the supervision of Miss Harriet Smethurst, representative of the Manchester and Salford Refuges. 

The events leading to Mary Ann's referral to one of the Refuge's orphan homes in Manchester were sudden and tragic. At the age of ten Mary Ann of Newton Heath was placed into the care of the Refuges at the advice of the magistrates after the attempted suicide of her father. During this period (and up to the 1961 Suicide Act) suicide was a criminal offence punishable by law. Mary's father, dealing with the loss of his wife some two years before, was no doubt placed under great emotional, and potentially financial, stress.  Mary Ann would have been dealing with the trauma of these events too when she was separated from her father upon his consent to her referral into the orphan home (likely having been given no choice due to his pending conviction), and her brothers and sisters whom were unable to care for Mary. Traumatic for all parties involved, within the one year of being accepted into the home, around the time of Mary's eleventh birthday, Mary's life faced further upheaval with her move to Canada.

Mary Ann, c.1897

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Our birthday and some reflections

As we hit 2019, the Together Trust once again finds itself on the brink of yet another birthday. This is its last one before the big 150 in January next year. Like many of us, teetering on the edge of a decade, we gaze back in wonder at how quickly the years have passed and what has been achieved in the last decade. 

Our earliest photograph taken 1873