Shattered Lives: British Home Children in Prince Albert

Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan Photo. Detail from a group photo taken c1902 in front of St. Patrick's orphanage. The names of the boys in this photo are unknown. A priest's hand is on the head of the boy in the centre.

This is the 27th 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 2

This is my last Shattered Lives column. Thank you for reading my columns. Hopefully, you now have a sense of the conditions in the United Kingdom that led to these children being sent to Canada, and have learned a bit about how the lives of the British Home Children unfolded after they arrived at the orphanage in Prince Albert at the beginning of the last century. I am grateful to the Prince Albert Daily Herald for publishing this column.

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 the second of my two-part final column 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:

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

  • John Charles PITT (1896-?): Born on 15 October 1896 in Wandsworth SW, England to parents: George Pitt? (1869-) and Eliza Ann Cushion (1870-1898), the 1901 British census shows him living in St. Joseph’s Home, Enfield, Middlesex. At age 6, John was sent to Canada. A note on the ship’s passenger list beside his name says he was not from a workhouse. The 1906 Canada census shows John, age 10, residing at the PA orphanage. In 1911, the census shows him at age 15 living in the Humboldt, Saskatchewan area with Anna Sinnott (widow, age 53) and her son John Sinnott (age 25); working as a farm labourer. When the First World War broke out, John enlisted in Prince Albert on 22 December 1914. His enlistment papers state that his parents were dead, listing his next of kin as a sister Miss Annie Pitt, Wandsworth, London SW, England. John served in 53rd Battalion; 2nd Canadian Engineer Reinforcement Depot (C.E.R.D), and in the 32nd Reserve Battalion as a sapper, Canadian Corps HQ Signal Company. He was discharged 30 May 1919 at age 23 and moved to Plaster Rock, New Brunswick. In 1920, John immigrated to the United States. In April 1929 he moved to Middlefield, Connecticut, unmarried, at age 32 where he worked as factory hand. The 1930 US Census shows John (34, single) boarding at a home at Middlesex, Connecticut. His occupation was “Tinner” at a spoon factory. In 1942, John’s WWII Draft card states that at age 44 he was working at Lock Joint Pipe Co, Thomaston, Litchfield, Connecticut. The date of his death is unknown.
  • Mary SHEEHAN (1890 -): Born in London, England in 1890, the 1901 British census shows Mary, age 10) at Convent Orphanage, Church Street, Uckfield, Sussex. She sailed to Canada at age 13. The 1906 census shows she was residing at the Prince Albert orphanage. The 1911 census shows she was still residing there at age 21.
  • Rose SHERIDAN (1896-?): Born in Ireland on 19 Apr 1896, Rose’s last residence before sailing to Canada at age 7 with her brother Thomas (see below) was Nazareth House, Bexhill. “Rosie” is recorded in both the 1906 and 1911 Canada censuses as living in the PA orphanage, ages 10 and 15 respectively. By 1916, the census shows Rosie Sheridan, age 19 was living and working as a domestic for the John O’Brien family in South Winnipeg. She married Charles Lexier on 14 March 1918 at Winnipeg. They had two children, Pearl and Frank. 1921: Census shows Rose and Charles (occupation: teamster) living in a rented 3-room apartment in Winnipeg North with Pearl (3) and Frank (2). Rose and Charles must have split up, as the 1926 prairie census shows Rose (married) living by herself in a boarding house at 336 Ross Avenue North Centre, Winnipeg. Charles remarried in 1930 to Esther Leona Porlier. In 1932, Leona (24) was charged with stabbing her husband Charles (35). [Winnipeg Tribune, 13 June 1932]. Rose’s son Frank (abt 1919-1981) was a drug addict and a habitual criminal and was sentenced to life imprisonment on 19 October 1951. Described as “a dangerous criminal, a dope addict, and a man of violent temper, Frank had already served 12 of the last 15 years behind bars. [Saskatoon StarPhoenix, 19 October 1951]
  • Thomas SHERIDAN (abt 1898-?): Born to unknown parents, Thomas’ last residence before sailing to Canada at age 13 with his sister Rose (see above) was St. Mary’s Home, West Grinstead, Sussex. The 1911 Canada census shows 13-year-old Thomas living as the adopted son of Richard and Laura Feeny on their farm in the Humboldt district, likely near the Irish Colony of Sinnett. By 1916 the census shows Thomas, age 19, lodging with and working for E. G Fisher and his wife Anna on their farm near Humboldt. 
  • Henry Taylor: Born about 1895, his last residence before sailing from England was the Convent, 8 Eastbrook Place, Dover, operated by the Sisters of Charity as an orphanage for boys from the Catholic Children’s Rescue Society. The census for 1906 shows Henry, age 11, in the PA orphanage. He is not listed there in the 1911 census.
  • Mary WALKER: Born July 20, 1893, she lived at Nazareth House, Bexhill, London just prior to sailing to Canada. The 1906 Canada census shows 13-year-old Mary Walker at the PA orphanage. photo. Joseph and James Bailey were British Home Children who reunited in Quebec around 1930.

1907 – Departed Liverpool aboard Empress of Britain 12 July 1907; arrived at Quebec 18 July 1907. Twenty-one children sponsored by the Southwark Rescue Society:

  • Wilton James H. Bailey (1842-1903) worked as a milkman in St. Anne Soho, Westminster, London and as a butler in St. Leonard’s, Hastings, Sussex. He had five children with his first wife Annie Baker and six children with his second wife, Mary Elizabeth Baker. Wilton died of tuberculosis in 1903 at age 61. Joseph’s mother Mary Elizabeth Baker (1871-1953) worked as a laundress in 1901. She remarried in 1906 to Peter James Baker and had four more children. Joseph sailed to Canada at age 9. Canada census shows Joseph, age 13, at St. Patrick’s Catholic Orphanage. The 1916 census shows him living and working as a farm labourer in Humboldt area of Saskatchewan at age 18. His brother James (1894-1975) was also a British Home Child, sent to Montreal in 1907. Joseph moved to Montreal, Quebec sometime before 1932, probably to reunite with his brother. He married Adriene Paquin in 1932. They had three children Lise (1937-1938), Joseph Arthur Claude Bailey (1938-1998), and Joseph Guy Paul Emile (1939-1959). In Montreal, Joseph worked as a stationary engineer with the Sisters of Providence at the St-Jean-de-Dieu hospital. He died on 10 March 1977 in Montreal.
  • John [James?] BIRD (1900 -): Before being shipped to Canada, a medical certificate for John Bird was issued at St. Mary’s Home, West Grinstead, Sussex, England. John. The 1911 Canada census shows an 11-year-old “Jas” (James) Bird living at St. Patrick’s Catholic Orphanage. The 1916 census shows a James Bird, age 15, in a boy’s detention home in Wolseley, Saskatchewan. I have not confirmed that this is the same boy.
  • George DRAGE (about 1900-?): George was born 1 August 1900 or 1901 in a workhouse in Camberwell, London, Surrey, England. His father Henry Drage (1871-1949), a labourer and a railway carriage cleaner, was in and out of the Lambeth workhouse with his children in the early 1900s. George’s mother Ada Clabby (1870-1940) married Henry Drage in 1895. She worked as a servant but listed her calling as “milliner” on workhouse records. She never divorced Henry Drage but lived with a bricklayer Charles N. Lamberton who left his wife and two children in about 1906 to be with Ada. In 1910, Ada was charged with neglecting her children Charles and Dorothy due to her “intemperate ways” and sentenced to three months’ hard labour. From 1904 to 1906, George was in and out of the Lambeth Workhouse with his father and older brother Herbert. He was sent to Canada in July 1907 shortly after his mother took up with Charles Lamberton. The 1911 Canada census shows George living in PA orphanage at age 10.
  • (1896-1971): Alberta was born in July 1896 in Lambeth, London, England to a single mother and an unknown father. Her mother was likely Grace Mary Green (1878-?). Grace married Charles James Jones in 1906. The 1901 British census shows 4-year-old Alberta living in Brixton, Lambeth, London with her grandmother Alice Green (53, widow), Alice’s daughter Grace (23) [Alberta’s mother?], ad Alice’s son Walker (18). The three adults were working out of their home, with Alice making shirts, Grace as some sort of assistant, and Walker packing bird feed. Shortly after her mother Grace’s marriage, Alberta was shipped to Canada at age 10. The 1911 Canada census shows Alberta (14) living in PA at the orphanage. She married Harold Richard Neil on March 1, 1916 at Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan. They had four children. The 1921 census shows Harold (27) and Alberta (24) Neil farming in the RM of Blaine Lake with their children Richard (3) and Emma (1). The Canada Voters Lists for 1949 shows Harold and Alberta living in Victoria, British Columba where Harold was working as a lumberman. Harold Neil died January 9, 1964 at Oak Bay, BC. By 1971, Alberta was living in Victoria, BC. Her death date is unknown, but she is buried with her husband at Hatley Memorial Gardens, Colwood, BC.
  • Robert Ambrose KELLY: Born in April 1901 in Ireland, 6-year-old Robert arrived at the Prince Albert orphanage in 1907. The 1911 and 1916 Canada censuses show Robert Kelly, age 10, living there at age 10 and age 15 respectively.
  • Born at Carlisle, Cumberland, England in about 1899, the Canada census shows Alfred living at the orphanage in 1911 at age 12, and at age 17 in 1916. According to the 1921 census, 21-year-old Alfred had moved to Wolseley, Saskatchewan and was working as a delivery man.
  • Eric Joseph O’SHEA: Born in November 1899 at St. Saviour Southwark, London, England, the 1911 Canada census shows Eric, age 12, living in St. Patrick’s Catholic Orphanage. I found no record for him after 1911 until I located his obituary in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. Eric died at age 81 in Saskatoon on 20 May 1981 and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery.
  • Ellen O’SULLIVAN (1902 or 1903 -): Sailed at age 4. Both the 1911 and the 1916 Canada censuses record Ellen living in St. Patrick’s orphanage. In 1916, her name is given as “Helen.”
  • John PIERCE (1898 -): The 1911 Canada census shows English-born John, age 13, living at the Prince Albert orphanage.