On their own: Britain’s child migrants
Medallion tells of the leaving of Liverpool
Liverpool is linking up with Australia to tell the emotional story of child and youth migration.
From 1860 until the 1960s migration schemes saw youngsters and teenagers separated from families and sent to the ends of the earth to begin new lives.
Many were orphaned or had come from poor families who could no longer look after them and it was felt Australia and Canada provided better opportunities and a standard of life.
Children sailed from Liverpool, Glasgow, London and Southampton. While many found happiness, others suffered abuse and exploitation.
National Museums Liverpool and the Australian National Maritime Museum have just launched an online message board – www.britainschildmigrants.com – for people to share their memories and experiences of child migration.
National Museums Liverpool has partnered with the Australian National Maritime Museum to develop a touring exhibition which opens in Sydney this autumn.
Liverpool stories and artefacts will form part of On their own- Britain’s child migrants exhibition.
Fourteen-year-old Everton schoolboy William Nevin left Liverpool behind in 1911. Bound for New Zealand, he never saw his home again.
William married, had children and was successful in business. But he never forgot about his family and kept one Liverpool thing with him throughout his life – a medallion awarded to him at Major Lester school in Everton for being a star pupil. That medallion is one of the artefacts set to appear in Sydney.
William’s niece Phyllis Clark from Woolton said: “Because he was successful at school he was chosen to go to New Zealand. It was seen as an honour. So one day these men arrived in bowler hats from Alfred Holt shipping company and off he went. The family had never even heard of New Zealand – it was like they were taking William to the moon.
“We were given the medallion two years ago by William’s family in New Zealand to return to Liverpool. William had died in the 1970s. He’d kept it all his life as a memento of his roots. And in some ways the medallion is one of the reasons why he left Liverpool behind – he excelled at school which is why he was chosen to go.”
Rachel Mulhearn, director Merseyside Maritime Museum, said: “From the late 19th century Britain sent more than 100,000 children to Canada, Australia and other Commonwealth countries. It was believed they would have a better life working in the clean expanses of the British Empire where they were the source of much-needed labour.
“While many had happy experiences and began new lives, the separation for some from the homes and families often led to a lonely, brutal childhood. Today many former child migrants and their families are still coming to terms with their dislocation.