Shattered Lives: British Home Children in Prince Albert

This is the 23rd in a series of columns about the 70 British Home Children sent to St. Patrick’s Catholic Orphanage in Prince Albert between 1901 and 1907. While all orphanage records were destroyed in the terrible fire of 1947, every attempt has been made to trace the life stories of these dispossessed children through genealogy websites and newspaper databases.

Esther Barrand: An Unsettled Life

Born the second youngest of Henry and Lewannah Barrand’s 12 children on 31 March 1891 in Medway, Kent, England, Esther (Hettie) Amelia Barrand lived an unsettled life.

Esther’s father Henry Joseph Barrand (1848-1921) had been a sapper (private) in the Royal Engineers, 39th Company, from 1873 and had served in India during the 1870s. When he was discharged in 1885, Henry moved his family to a home on Medway Road in Gillingham, Kent, England. The 1891 British census shows the Barrands with nine of their children living in Gillingham; no occupation was recorded for Henry. Esther’s mother Lewannah (born Collins in 1850) died there in April 1894.

After his wife’s death, Henry Barrand could not cope with so many mouths to feed. On 19 March 1895, almost a year after Lewannah’s passing, six of his children including 4-year-old Esther were admitted to the Medway Union Workhouse.

In 1899 Henry remarried to a woman named Maria Smith, but he even though he continued to live in Gillingham, he did not take his children back. Henry, age 63, and Maria, age 62, are found in the 1911 census for England living alone. He died in London, England on 21 June 1921 at age 72.

It appears that Esther was shuffled from one older sibling’s home to another before she was shipped off to Canada in the fall of 1903. A family photo taken around 1900 shows little Esther surrounded by five of her older siblings, sister Lewannah to her left and sister Eugenie to her right, with brothers William, Alfred and Henry, all in uniform, standing behind them. Esther, holding a small dog in her lap, looks well cared for. She is wearing a dress covered by a pinafore (a decorative apron) with a brooch at her throat and a ribbon in her curly hair. photo.
A Barrand family photo shows little Esther surrounded by five of her older siblings, c1900.

In 1901, the British census records 10-year-old “Hettie” living with her brother Samuel and his new wife Maggie in Canterbury, Kent. Perhaps Esther proved to be too much of a handful for the newlyweds. Perhaps Samuel’s military career took precedence over caring for his young sister. (A member of the East Kent Regiment of the British Army, Samuel served in India in 1894-1895 and in South Africa as a sergeant with “The Buffs” in 1905-1906.) Whatever the reason, at age 13 Esther was sent to St. Patrick’s Catholic Orphanage in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan on 15 October 1903. She sailed from Liverpool aboard the Bavarian and arrived in Quebec on the 23rd

Esther’s granddaughter, Vernie Greenhalgh, informed me in an email on 17 April 2023 that when her grandmother arrived at the orphanage, she worked as domestic help for the nuns. As a teenager, Esther did laundry and ironed the priest’s clothes and church linens. This is consistent with the reminiscences of Mother St. Sylvestre of the Daughters of Providence who wrote that after St. Patrick’s school hours, “we showed the girls how to sew, to take care of house chores, and to cook. There were three or four 15 to 18-year-old girls who were a great help to us.” [As quoted in Monica Plante’s history of the orphanage, 1988.]

Photo courtesy of Vernie Greenhalgh.
Esther in her later years, no date.

In 1908, 18-year-old Esther married Belgium-born Jules Faucon (1886-1977) at North Battleford, Saskatchewan. They had four children: Bernard, Esther, Evelina, and Bernice. The 1911 census shows that Jules was working as a saw cutter on a building site in North Battleford. By 1920, the family was living at Meacham, Saskatchewan where Esther’s brother William and his wife and child arrived from England to live permanently. In 1921, the Canada census shows that Jules and Esther were farming in the Humboldt district.

At the height of the Great Depression that hit Saskatchewan particularly hard during the 1930s, the Faucon family relocated to the French-Canadian community of Maillardville, British Columbia where Jules sought work in the lumber industry with Fraser Mills. (Today, Maillardville is a Francophone enclave within the boundaries of Coquitlam.)

The move to Maillardville may have been challenging for English-speaking Esther, for her marriage to Jules soon collapsed. The Faucons must have separated around 1935; they divorced in April 1942.

I found Esther, who anglicized her name to “Falcon”, on several Canada Voters Lists living on her own, first in the Fraser Valley, then in Vancouver, British Columbia, as follows:

            •           1935: Miss Hester Faucon (W), housekeeper, living at Mission City, Fraser Valley, BC

            •           1940: Mrs. Esther Falcon, housekeeper, living at Vedder Crossing, Fraser Valley, BC

            •           1949: Mrs. Esther Falcon, retired, living in a boarding house at 1275 Georgia Street West, Vancouver.

• 1958: Mrs. Esther Falcon living at 4065 10th Avenue West in Vancouver with eight priests. This address is the site of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish. No occupation is listed for Esther on this voters list. Perhaps she was serving as the housekeeper for the priests. Established in 1927, the parish included a school under the leadership of the Sisters of Charity of Halifax. This is the same order of nuns that ran the school at St. Patrick’s Catholic Orphanage in Prince Albert. [Source: ]

Esther (Barrand) Falcon died on 28 May 1971 at age 80 in Vancouver and is buried at Maple Ridge Cemetery, Maple Ridge, British Columbia. She had moved around a great deal during her unsettled life; may she rest in peace.