Shattered Lives: British Home Children in Prince Albert

Photo from Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan, R-A1594. Priests and Sisters of Charity with the children at St. Patrick's orphanage, c1906.

This is the 26th 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.

The Remaining Stories, Part 1

This is my second-last Shattered Lives columns. I have now written about 44 of the 70 British Home Children at the Prince Albert orphanage but I have been having more and more trouble finding information about the remaining 26.

This is Part One of my final column (in two parts) which will tell you what I have learned about these 26 children. Please check out Shattered Lives on Substack which has additional and updated content: www.

1901 – Departed Liverpool aboard Tunisian 19 September; arrived at Quebec City 27 September:

• Rhoda [Cecile] ALLEN: Born March 1894, London, England. 1901 British census shows Rhoda Allen (6) at Convent Orphanage, Church Street, Uckfield, Sussex. Rhoda sailed at age 7. After she arrived at St. Patrick’s Catholic Orphanage on 4 October 1901, the nuns changed her name from Rhoda to Cecile. The 1906 Canada census shows Cecile Allen, age 12, in the PA orphanage. She was still there at age 17 when the 1911 census was taken.

• Francis Arthur KELLY: Born in about 1891, 9-year-old Francis arrived at the orphanage on 4 October 1901. At age 16, Arthur Kelly was still residing at St. Patrick’s Catholic Orphanage when the 1906 census for the prairies provinces was taken.

• Agnes / Ellen (Nellie) MADDEN: Born in about 1894 in London, England, the 1901 British census shows Ellen Madden, age 7, at Convent Orphanage, Church Street, Uckfield, Sussex, the same institution at which Rhoda Allan (above) boarded. There were two 7-year-old girls with the surname Madden aboard the Tunisian in September 1901 – Agnes sent by the Catholics and Ellen sent by Barnardo’s. The Canada census for 1906 shows Nellie Madden, age 12, in St. Patrick’s Catholic Orphanage in PA. Did the nuns at the orphanage change her name, or did the two Madden girls get mixed up? There is no Madden girl listed in the orphanage for either the 1911 or 1916 Canada census.

• John Albert OWENS (1893-1941): Born 24 December 1893 to unknown parents in Belfast, Norther Ireland, John sailed to Canada at age 7. The 1906 Canada census shows John, age 14, in the PA orphanage. He married Annie Viola Everdell Barden (1897-1979) between 1921 and 1923. They had three children, Marie Louise (1923-2000), Patrick John James (1925-1963), and June Theresa (1934-2009). John worked as the manager of Goblin Electric Cleaner Company in Saskatoon from 1938 to 1941. He was promoted to supervisor of the company’s Winnipeg branch in the fall of 1940 but was diagnosed with stomach cancer shortly afterwards so he never moved. John died at age 47 on 9 Feb 1941 in Saskatoon and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

1903 – Departed Liverpool aboard Tunisian 7 May 1903; arrived at Quebec on 15 May. Sponsored by the Southwark Catholic Emigration Society:

• Ethel Catherine BRICKLEY (1889-1964): Ethel was born to a single mother Catherine Mary Jane (Brickley) Baxter (1867-1942) on 11 October 1889 in St. Mary Cray, Kent, England. Catherine, a domestic servant, married Edward Frederick Baxter (abt 1886-1939), a stationary engineman at the Royal Arsenal gun factory, in Woolwich, London when she was 32 years old. They had three daughters, Ethel’s stepsisters. Ethel sailed at age 11 (14?). The 1906 Canada census shows Ethel K. Berkley, age 18, at the PA orphanage. She married Albert Henry Shearer (28, wood worker) in Toronto, Ontario at age 24 on 28 May 1913. The marriage certificate shows that Ethel, now living in Toronto, did not know her father’s name, and that her mother’s name may have been Brickley. The 1921 census shows Ethel (31) living in the village of Sutton, Ontario with her husband Albert Shearer (35, mechanic in garage) and a 17-year-old servant. There were no children. Ethel died in Toronto on 9 May 1941 at age 51 of a heart attack. Her death certificate indicates that she never learned the names of her father and mother.

• William Cornelius HOLLIDAY (1891-1957): William was the second of 14 children born to Edwin Thomas Holliday (1866-1944) and Anne Sarah [or Ann Sara] Farrell (1866-1946). He was born in Staplehurst, Kent, England on 24 September 1891. It is not clear why William, at age 11, was the only one of Edwin and Sarah’s 14 children sent to Canada. Was he too much of a handful? The 1906 Canada census shows William, age 16, living at the PA orphanage. By 1921, the census shows William, age 30, farming at Buckland north of PA (5-51-26-W2) with his wife Catherine Hilda (23) and their children Mary Agnes (2) and William (1). The 1926 census reveals that William (36) and Kathleen (28) were living in The Pas, Manitoba with their three children Mary (7), William (6) and Hilda (2). Hilda died the following year at age 3 years. Curiously, William’s parents moved to New Brunswick in 1929 to live with their daughter Agnes Gowan. There is no evidence that they ever visited William in Saskatchewan or Manitoba, or that he visited them in New Brunswick. William died in Prince Albert in 1957.

1903 – Departed Liverpool aboard Bavarian 15 October 1903; arrived at Quebec on 23 October. Sponsored by the Southwark Catholic Emigration Society:

• Albert Robert GREEN (1890-1958): Albert was born in Pimlico, London, England on 26 January 1890 to Alfred Richford Green (1853- ), a hotel porter, and Sarah Pope (1852-1901), a charwoman. He had five siblings. Sarah died of tuberculosis in 1901. One of her sons died of tuberculosis as well. Albert was 14 years old when he was sent to Canada. He must have been a sickly child, for his WW1 service records show that he had typhoid fever at about age 7 and rheumatic fever in 1911. The 1906 Canada census shows an Albert Green, age 18, living alone in North Battleford, possibly working on the railway. Albert enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Prince Albert on 14 August 1914. His former occupation was railway locomotive fireman. In 1915 he served at Ypres in France with the 10th Battalion for three months where he was gassed and wounded by two machine gun shots to abdomen, chest and back. He lay unconscious in the Boulogne Hospital for five days, then spent six weeks in Southmead Hospital, Bristol, and five weeks in Badminton Hospital, Gloucestershire. After he recovered, he was assigned light duty as an MP or orderly at Maple Leaf Club but he found the work too arduous. In 1916 Albert was diagnosed with Mitral Stenosis [heart disease] probably caused by his rheumatic fever and aggravated by gunshot wounds and shock. He was discharged on 22 November 1916 at age 25 as medically unfit. His intended place of residence was Prince Albert, but he eventually ended up in Red Deer, Alberta where he married Jennie Eudell McKenzie in 1927. They had three children. Albert worked as a CNR railroad engineer for 33 years in Alberta. He died on 8 May 1958 in Edmonton, Alberta at age 69.

• Catherine May HOCKLEY (1894 or 1896 – ?): Born on 2 Oct 1894 to single mother Harriet Hockley and an unknown father, Catherine was baptized at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel & St. Joseph, Battersea, London SW, England. In 1898 she was referred to Nazareth House at Bexhill by Rev Father S. John and was admitted on 12 Oct 1898. She remained in the home until 13 Oct 1903 when she sailed to Canada. The 1901 British census shows a 4-year-old Catherine Hockley in the Nazareth Home, Bexhill, Sussex. The Bexhill home “provided accommodation for the aged poor and for orphan and destitute children, primarily Roman Catholic girls. The home was also certified to receive children placed out by the Boards of Guardians who operated the poor relief and workhouse system.” Catherine sailed to Canada at age 7. The 1906 Canada census shows Catherine, age 10, in the PA orphanage. In 1911, the census shows “Katie” Hockley, age 15, still living at the orphanage.

• Patrick O’BRIEN (abt 1894 – ): Likely born in Ireland.Patrick’s last residence before sailing with his younger brother Michael (see below) to Canada at age 9 was Father Emmanuel Bans’ Home, St. Vincent’s, London. A note on the medical certificate signed at St. Anthony’s Home, Feltham, Middlesex, says “This boy has slight defect of sight at night only.” The 1906 Canada census shows Patrick, age 12, in the PA orphanage.

• Michael (Mike) O’BRIEN (1896 – ): Born 15 July 1896 in Dublin, Ireland, Michael’s last residence before sailing with his older brother Patrick (see above) to Canada at age 7 was Father Emmanuel Bans’ Home, St. Vincent’s, London. The 1906 Canada census shows Michael, age 10, in the PA orphanage. By 1916, the census shows Michael, age 20, living as a lodger in the home of James Dalton, poolroom owner, in the Kindersley district where he was working as a labourer. Michael enlisted at age 21 on 27 December 1917 at Regina. He was living at Plato, SK and “Defaulter” is typed on his military record. His occupation was farm labourer. He listed his next of kin as his mother, Mrs. O’Brien, Stanford Near Hythe, Kent. England. “Christian name not known by Draftee.” He listed his father as dead. In his will dated 29 Dec 1917 he left everything to his mother. He fought in France in 1918 and was discharged on 30 April 1919. Michael requested to secure his discharge in England and waived his claim on the Canadian Government for transportation to Canada. He gave his address as that of his mother’s: Kennett Lane, Stanford Near Hythe, Kent. England. Perhaps he never returned to Canada after the war.