British Home Children

From 1868 to 1930, approximately 100,000 children were transported from Britain to Canada, the majority of whom arrived by way of the port of Halifax, NS.  The British Home Children, as they were known, were settled in farming communities across Canada, mainly in Nova Scotia, Ontario and the Prairie Provinces.  They were put to work as farm labourers and more often than not, treated poorly. Goshen was home to several of these children, as it happens all from the same family in Redditch, England.  The son of Joe Day, a Child of the Empire, recounts his fathers’ experiences as told to him over the years.


Joe Day

Joe Day

Joe Day came to Nova Scotia from a home in Redditch England (Birmingham) in April 1912 at the age 10.  Robert MacNaughton, picked him up in Antigonish and brought him to Goshen.  He had a tag on his Button hole that said “deliver to Harry Sinclair, Goshen”.   Farm families across Canada submitted applications for these children that most often ended up doing hard labour on the farm.  When Harry and Bessie Sinclair received delivery of Joe,  they had no children of their own and Harry was overworked between the farm and his blacksmith shop.  At a later date they had 4 daughters and a son.

Life on the farm was hard work- sometimes the school teacher boarded at the Harry Sinclair’s.  He got his grade 6, and worked on the farm before and after school.  The ‘parents’ were strict and corporal punishment was commonly used.  He had some contact with his brothers when they were brought to the Goshen Area to live with other families.  The brothers came over at a different time and they were many years younger than Joe.

Joe Day is said to have reminisced, “One day I was playing on the streets in Redditch and before you know it I was behind a team of horses ploughing ground and hollering Whoa”.

When Joe grew up he went out West to work on the harvest.  He worked in the woods in Nova Scotia and in New Brunswich, and he worked in the mines at Timmons, Ontario.  He volunteered for service in WWII and after a short time in England after the war he brought his English bride back to Goshen where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. Unlike his brothers, Fred brought up by the Judson McKeens in Aspen and  Sid brought up by the Ed Sinclairs at Fraser`s Mills, who returned to England permanently in their adulthood, Joe planted himself in the soil of Goshen.


For more information on the British Home Children see the article Canada’s Children of the Empire.