|Home Children on a Canadian Stamp|
In 1901, the census tells us, William Jr. and Ida (Bulmer) Rutherford had a 14-year-old domestic servant, a girl named Sarah Dolphin who was born in England. Further investigation at Library and Archives Canada reveals that Sarah was a Home Child. This is what I can discover about her story.
Sarah and her family appear on the 1891 census of England, living in the St. Martin district of Liverpool, Lancashire. Her parents are Richard Dolphin, age 34, and Rachel Dolphin, age 26. Sarah is 4 years old on this census, and she has three siblings: Mary A. Dolphin, age 8, Esther Dolphin, age 6, and James Dolphin, age 5 months. They live at 13 Court (Street?), in a two-room house. Her father is a Carter by occupation; it is evidently a working-class neighbourhood as their fellow street-dwellers have occupations such as Fish Hawker, Clothes Gatherer, Basket Girl, Charwoman, and Dock Laborer. The oldest girl in the Dolphin family, Mary, attends school, the others are presumably too young. The father, Richard Dolphin, is probably illiterate as he signed his marriage record with an X (Rachel was able to sign her maiden name, Rachel Hayes Wright). The whole family, including Richard and Rachel, were born in Liverpool. Richard and Rachel's fathers were both Carters by occupation as well.
Death records for Lancashire show that Rachel Dolphin was buried on 22 September 1896 at age 31 in Ford Cemetery. I can find no death record for Richard.
In the 1901 census of England, James Dolphin appears living at St. George Industrial School in Everton, Lancashire. This is an all-boys boarding school for orphans and destitute children and at ten years of age he appears to be one of the younger students.
On September 21, 1896, the day before their mother's burial, Sarah, Mary and Esther Dolphin arrived in Montreal on the ship Sardinian. The ship had left England on September 10th. They were with a group of 32 children going to Montreal under the protection of Miss Yates of the Liverpool Catholic Children's Protection Society. The words "from workhouses" appears beside the children's names. Sarah is ten years old, Esther is twelve, and Mary is fourteen.
|Ship's Passenger List Recording Sarah, Mary and Esther Dolphin's Arrival in Canada.|
Sarah Dolphin and her sisters drop off the Montreal records after 1901. They were three of approximately 118,000 children sent to Canada under the Child Immigration Scheme which began in 1863 and, astonishingly, did not completely end until 1939. Under this program British children from poor families were brought in to Canada to serve as unpaid domestic and farm labour. They were required to remain with the families they were placed with until they turned eighteen, while these families had no obligation to educate them or even treat them well. Historians now believe that very few of these children were true orphans, rather, their families had been either temporarily or permanently incapacitated by poverty in a society which had no government supported social safety net as we know it today. According to the British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association and many other sources, often British families without other resources would place their children in the care of charitable aid societies for what they hoped was a short period. Once the children were shipped to Canada without the parent's knowledge or consent, they would be impossible for the family left behind to locate. No effort was made to minimize the trauma of being uprooted from family by at least keeping siblings together, as evidenced by the case of the four Dolphin siblings. It makes me truly sick to think that Sarah was the age my youngest child is right now when she crossed the ocean and entered the Rutherford household in service, all alone. I hope they were kind to her. I wonder where she ended up.