She would like to know her birthday ~British Home Children #Canada

We know very little about the girls who arrived at the Guthrie Home in London, Ontario before it closed in 1893.  But the records of the Inspectors who visited them in their new habitation, for some a home, for others a place to endure, provide a few phrases about the experiences of these lonely girls.

SS Parisian

In 1881, wheelwright, Benjamin Sink was living with his wife Jane and their three little girls in Farthing Lane, Wandsworth, but Benjamin came from Ockham, Surrey where most of his family still lived. By 1883 the lives of Ruth, aged 7, Beatrice, 6, and Ada Sink, aged 3 had been turned upside down. Their mother Jane had died and Benjamin was imprisoned in Wandsworth jail. The family in Ockham took in the three girls, but their grandmother was 64 and nearly blind so they were soon given up to the Union Workhouse in Guildford.

An earlier group of Middlemore girls who arrived in Canada in 1877

Miss Spottiswood, the only female Guardian on the Poor Law Board, was a wealthy educated woman who had taken some of the workhouse teenagers to work  as staff at her home. Each summer she invited the children to a picnic in her garden at Shere and she arranged for Christmas visits to a pantomime.  Always anxious to give young people a better start in life, she had studied closely the migration of "orphans" to Canada where they would be employed as farm servants in homes around the country.  Despite the misgivings of some of her fellow Guardians she began to entrust children to Mr Middlemore's organisation to start a new life in Canada.  So in June 1883 the sisters set out from Liverpool on the Allan Line steamship Parisian, with 115 other girls from various parts of Britain.

Guthrie House

At first they were taken to Guthrie House in London, Ontario and then they were taken to their new "homes" or a habitation where they would work very hard until they were 21. Along with Alice and James Hart, who were also from Guildford, they were placed with families who had requested a young person. Beatrice and Ada seem to have been lucky in their positions but Ruth, whose name was misspelt by the government inspector, was not so happy.


It is recorded in Ontario that Mark Smallpeice, Clerk to the Board of Governors of Guildford Poor Law Union, requested feedback on the children's situations, as did other workhouse Boards and thus we have it on record that Beatrice, "would like to know her birthday if possible," that Ada, "thinks she has a brother in the Union, (Guildford Workhouse) while poor Ruth is so unwell she has been returned to Guthrie House. We do not know whether Beatrice discovered her birthday or whether Ada really had a brother "in the Union (workhouse)".


1966 and all that: Music and films

1966 was a year of great change for me. In January I was living in the middle of nowhere in the Yorkshire Dales. By August I was in Singapore having the time of my life.

When you are 15 and all your friends are miles away, you depend on TV and radio. On the radio it was Radio Caroline, on TV, Top of The Pops and best of all, Ready Steady Go.


I don't remember hearing them sing together but I certainly bought records by both acts.


The Rolling Stones were frequently on Ready Steady Go presented by Cathy McGowan but my best memory of the Hollies was when they all gave me their autographs after their concert in Weymouth.



Even today "These Boots were made for walking" is played.


I'm not sure this skirt did anything for Lulu.

In Singapore we didn't have a TV but we went to the British Army cinema 3 times a week. 


Elvis was singing in his 22nd film, California Holiday.


Robert Vaughn and David McCallum had taken my favourite TV programme "The Man from Uncle" into the film studio.  I wonder if Ducky from NCIS looks back fondly on those days.


Robert Redford was amazing as the fugitive in "The Chase" also starring Marlon Brando and Jane Fonda but he had yet to appear with Paul Newman in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid".


Paul Newman fresh from his success in "Hud" had just completed "The Moving Target" in which he appeared as a Private Investigator.



And the unforgettable film was to be "Dr Zhivago" starring Omar Shariff, Julie Christie, Tom Courtney and Geraldine Chaplain.



Shandon Hydro - A Scottish Gem




 In 1833, Robert Napier, a Scottish marine engineer and shipbuilder bought land on the edge of the Gareloch at West Shandon to build a summer cottage, but soon like many of the Glasgow merchants he looked for an architect to build him a fairytale castle.  John Thomas Rochead had won a competition to design the Royal Arch in Dundee and would later design the Wallace memorial.  Napier commissioned him to create a mansion.  This was to be West Shandon House which cost £130,000 to build and was completed in 1852.  No expense was spared to build a quality house and Napier and his wife Isabelle Denny filled their new home with paintings by artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens, Vandyke and Titian, hung Gobelin tapestries and displayed objet d’art such as Sevres porcelain. They lived there happily until Isabelle died in 1875 and Robert in 1876.



The house was soon sold to a Glasgow based syndicate who intended to turn it into a hydropathic hotel.  Hydros, providing water cures in a luxury hotel, were particularly popular in Scotland at this time with more than 20 opening in the latter part of the 19th century.  Shandon Hydro, as it was called, included a heated salt water swimming pool, Turkish baths, a bowling green, a croquet lawn, a golf course and tennis courts.  There was a library full of popular books and greenhouses provided fresh flowers.  Smoking was strictly forbidden except in the Conservatory.




Safe pleasure boats were provided on the loch and broughams or landaus could be rented to take visitors on trips to Loch Lomond or Loch Long.  The Hydro proved extremely popular, until it was requisitioned early in World War One as an experimental submarine base and naval hospital.  Although restored to its role as a Hotel between the wars, its position next to the deep sea-loch on the Clyde made it essential to the navy once again in 1939.  Its popularity declined until it was destroyed in 1957 to make way for the Faslane naval base.


An interesting article on golf in Shandon can be found here