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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada

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Heritage Notes
No. 15 February 2003


The Home Children of Kennington Cove 

  Elaine Sawlor

        The tiny community of Kennington Cove was alive and vibrant at the turn of the last century. It supported its own church and school, and became

“industrialized” with the establishment of a lobster canning factory in the 1920's. The Scottish Gaelic speaking community was first settled ca.1841 by John MacAulay. He was quickly followed by several other Scottish Presbyterian settlers, mainly from North Uist, and by 1900, the MacDonalds, Munroes, MacInnises, McLeans, MacAulays and Wilsons all had homes along the Atlantic shores of Kennington Cove.

       They were mainly farmers and fishermen and they carved a living from the rocky land by growing root crops and raising a few sheep and dairy cattle. They were self-sufficient, fishing the coastline for lobster in spring and cutting timber in winter. They spoke the Gaelic of their homeland.

       Now picture, in 1909 and 1910, five small children  learning to speak Scottish Gaelic with  decidedly English accents.  Appearing among the familiar Scottish names were some very non-Scottish surnames such as Casey, Wilbraham and White. These new settlers with the English accents and the English surnames were British emigrants, known simply as Home Children. They would place their mark upon the flourishing community.

There were at least five Home Children raised in Kennington Cove: Teddy and George Casey and Louisa White came in 1909,  while Louisa and David Wilbraham arrived in 1910.

They were a tiny part of a much larger picture. In all, over 100,000 children arrived in Canada between 1869 and 1930, from the British Isles, to be placed in homes with people who were in no way related to them. In legal terms, the heads of these households were not referred to as the “adoptive  parents” of the children, but rather as their “employers”. In later years, thousands more children were sent to Australia and New Zealand. 

   Home Children, was a government “solution” to a British and Canadian problem: what to do with thousands of children from the overpopulated industrial cities of Great Britain and how to meet  the need for labour on Canadian farms. It is true that many children sent to Canada came from the streets of London, Liverpool and other heavily populated cities where they lived by their wits, but many also came from loving families who could no longer provide for them. The British government would gather these children into private care homes that were springing up in the industrialized cities. Since the U.K. did not have a social aid program at this time, families in poor areas had little choice but to send their children to these homes. Some children were only there until the family could get back on their feet, placed there because the parents were destitute and wanted to give their children a better chance at life. Sometimes, the children were sent off without their parents’ consent. Other parents believed their children would be better off in Canada.    

       In Canada, an individual could fill out a form, perhaps requesting a boy of 10 - 14 years of age to work as a farm hand or in some other labour-related field. Some families might request a girl of similar age if they wanted a housekeeper or care giver. Still others might want a younger child, under 6 perhaps, to be a part of the family.

            Children were sent out as young as 3 years old. They were given a shilling, a bible and one extra set of clothing. Unfortunately that set of clothing was not always suitable for our Canadian climate. All children were expected to stay with their new homes until they reached 18 years of age. Inspections were supposed to be carried out and if a home proved to be unsatisfactory, the inspector was to remove the child to a new location. Heads of households would sign an agreement stating that they would feed and clothe the children and provide for their schooling and religious education.

       Once placed in private care homes or work houses in Britain, the children were held until there were sufficient requests to send them out. They came to Canada in groups of 130, 160 or more. After a journey of three or four weeks in the steerage hold of a ship, they were landed in Halifax or St. John, Quebec or Ontario. Once again, they were held in a private care home and quarantined for at least 30 days before they were sent out to their new families and communities.

       The five children who came to Kennington Cove had all been placed in the Middlemore Emigration Home in Birmingham, England. However, there were several other Homes in the U.K.; Marie Rye, from Britain, placed thousands of girls in the Maritimes and Ontario; Annie MacPherson from Scotland and the British Salvation Army placed thousands more children. There were others as well, but by far the largest and longest running operation was controlled by Thomas Barnardo, who in the midst of controversy, criticism and scandal, sent out over 30,000 children.

The Kennington Cove children left from Liverpool, England, in May of 1909 and 1910 and arrived in Halifax in June. Once in Halifax, they were placed in the Fairview Home in Bedford for quarantine before they were sent again by ship from Halifax to Gabarus, completing their final journey to their new homes.

       Thousands and thousands of children survived  these ordeals and went on to live happy and productive lives. Many never talked about their lives either here or in England; they simply   endured their pain and enjoyed their good moments. They were strong beyond our comprehension and many became loving parents who raised equally strong and productive children. They are an almost forgotten wave of settlers, but were a very real part of our Heritage and we can be proud of each and every one of them. Here are profiles of  5 Home Children who were brought to Kennington Cove to live. 

Edward and George Casey  

       Edward Casey and George Casey, were born in Redditch, a city to the south of Birmingham, England. Both boys were placed in the Middlemore Emigration Home in Birmingham before they were sent out to Canada. They arrived in Canada in June 1909 on the vessel Carthaginian, with 130 British Emigrant Children on board. Edward (Teddy) was only four years old and George was six.

        Upon arriving in Kennington Cove, Teddy was placed in the home of John Archibald MacInnis and his wife Effie Ann (MacInnis) MacInnis. The MacInnises had no children of their own but raised Teddy as their adopted son. As a young man, Teddy MacInnis spent some time traveling in western Canada; however he soon returned home and settled down in Louisbourg. He built a home on Wolfe Street and married Mary MacNeil from Loch Lomond.

In the early 1940's Teddy and Mary adopted a son, Wilfred (Woody) Metcalfe MacInnis, who they raised in Louisbourg. After Mary’s death Teddy married a widow, Bertha Meade, and lived in North Sydney until his death in 1977 at age 72. A happy, easy-going man, Teddy lived his life to the fullest. He loved horses and enjoyed racing his own horse on the winter ice of Grand Lake in Louisbourg. He was employed by the Ideal Ice Cream Co., was an employee of the Dominion Coal Company, and worked at the Sydney Coal Pier.

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Teddy (Casey) MacInnis

 Teddy enjoyed people and cared for his parents until their deaths, Effie in 1957 and John Archie in 1961 at age 90. Wilfred (Woody) MacInnis married Margaret Doucette and  today Teddy is survived by his several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  

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George (Casey) Munroe

               George Casey’s situation was very different than his brother Teddy’s. George was assigned to the Alexander Munroe household. Alexander, a widower, had lost his wife Alexis (MacInnis) Munroe in 1901 and his only son, Archie, drowned in 1906. When George Casey arrived in 1909, Alexander Munroe was already an elderly man of 73.

A hard worker, George Munroe enlisted in Home Defense by 1917 and was stationed at the Marconi Wireless Station in Louisbourg. As a young man he went to sea and travelled the world, serving as first mate of vessels out of Louisbourg and Sydney.

 In later years, when he returned to Sydney, George was employed as an iron rigger with the Dominion Coal Company and served with the 6th Battalion Garrison Regiment during the 2nd World War. George married Maude (MacDonald) Mac Donald, a widow with six children. They had two daughters of their own: Georgina, who married Fred Milley, and Alice, who married Guy MacQueen. George and Maude raised their family in Glace Bay and their door was always open and the teapot on to family and friends. There was always a lot of company in the George Munroe house. He never owned a car, preferring to walk wherever he needed to go. Both Teddy and George were fluent in Gaelic, the language they learned soon after coming to Kennington Cove.

George had some contact with England at some point in his life. He had among his possessions a beautiful picture of his grandmother signed “To George with a Grannie’s love.” George Charles Casey Munroe passed away in 1989, at age 87, two years after his beloved wife Maude.

Louisa and Annie White

       Louisa and Annie White left Liverpool, England on May 25, 1909, and arrived in Halifax on June 9. They were also on the Carthaginian and would have travelled with Edward and George Casey from the Middlemore Home in Birmingham to their final destination in Nova Scotia. Louisa, born March 12, 1902, was seven years old and her sister Annie was eleven.

       Louisa White was placed in the home of Hugh Lauchlin and Effie (Munroe) Wilson. She became part of the Wilson household, was happy and had a very good life in Kennington Cove. Louisa also quickly learned to speak Gaelic, a language she used all her life. Around 1920,  she married Daniel J. MacMullin from New Boston, who was close to thirty years older than his bride. Together Daniel and Louisa had a family of nine children: 1) Mary, who married Albert Bessett; 2) John Lauchie, who died as a very young child; 3) Rosey, who married Hector McCuish; 4) Effie, who married Wallace Warren;  5) Ernie, who married Annie Worthington; 6) Isobel, who married Gerald Donovan; 7) Daniel, who married Sheila Mailman;  8) Katie Bell, who married Angus Hall; and 9) Peggy, who married Earl Hall.

        Annie White was sent to live in North Sydney though, in  time, she returned to England. Annie remained in contact with Louisa over the years, as did other family members in England, including Louisa’s mother, Rose White. Some years before she died, Louisa’s nephew Ernest made a trip to Canada to visit her. Louisa was happy with her life in Canada. She lived in New Boston most of her life, remaining there a few years even after her husband passed away in 1947 at age 75. Like the Wilsons, Louisa loved company and her New Boston home was open to family and friends. Eventually, she moved to Catalone  with her son, Daniel. In 1954, Louisa moved to Glace Bay to live with her daughter, Effie, and son-in-law, Wallace Warren. Louisa (White) MacMullin died on March 3, 1989, she was just 9 days short of her 87th birthday.   

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Louisa (White) & Daniel J. MacMullin

   Louisa and David Wilbraham

       On May 24, 1910, Louisa Wilbraham, age 10, and her brother David, age 8, left Liverpool, England, with 160 other British Emigration Children, on the SS Mongolian bound for Nova Scotia and a new life.

Louisa was placed in Kennington Cove with Flora (McLean) Wilson, a widow with four children. Louisa, known to her friends as Louie, married Roderick (Rory) MacLeod from Bell Lake, New Boston, on November 11, 1918. Louie was 18 years old and Rory was 27 years her senior. Together at Bell Lake they had eight children:1) Angus, who never married, was an engineer on the SS Rosecastle when she was torpedoed at Bell Isle Newfoundland, on November 2, 1942; 2) Donald, who remained unmarried; 3) Hugh, who married Gloria Parsons; 4) Allan, who married Kaye Bishop; 5) Catherine, who died at age 11; 6) Florence, who married William Martin; 7) Sarah Ann, who married Donald MacSween; and 8) Mary Catherine, who married Billy MacDonald.  

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Roderick and Louisa (Wilbraham) MacLeod

      Louie MacLeod was a tiny woman, under 5 ft. tall. She was very musical and was full of fun and full of life. She had a beautiful singing voice and would sing in both English and Gaelic. Louie loved people and when her children were young, she would walk with them to catch the train in Catalone and travel to Glace Bay for a visit with the Wilsons, with whom she had grown up. Louie’s husband Rory passed away in 1958 at age 85 and Louie remained in her home at Bell Lake until 1960. At that time, she moved into the home of her daughter and son-in-law Mary Catherine and Billy MacDonald on Columbia Street in Sydney. Louisa (Wilbraham) MacLeod died on Sept. 24, 1984 at age 84.

       David Wilbraham was placed with Archibald and Isobel (MacVicar) McLean. The McLeans had only one child, a daughter Catherine. Like all the other Kennington Cove Home Children, David quickly learned to speak the Gaelic language of his new homeland. As a young man, he worked in Margaree and fell in love with the area, eventually building a home there. David kept his ties with friends in Kennington Cove and lots of visits were made back and forth. Like his sister, David was very musical. He played the fiddle, but in fact, he could play many instruments well. David never married. He died in Margaree in the late 1960's.


In addition to the five children placed in Kennington Cove, many more were “employed” in Framboise, Fourchu, Gabarus, Catalone, Mira and Little Lorraine. In fact, they could be found anywhere extra hands were needed by settlers in the mainly rural areas of Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario. David Lorente of Home Children Canada is quoted as saying that “today’s figures indicate that as many as 13½ % of the population of Canada is descended from Home Children.”

For more information you may contact:

Dawn Hopkins, from Port Morien, at has been hosting gatherings for Home Children and their descendants in the Cape Breton area. Dawn’s grandmother, Clara Scott, was raised in Sydney by Neil and Isabella MacLean from Gabarus.

Cecil Verge at  hosts gatherings for the Halifax/Truro area of Nova Scotia. His group wants to erect a monument to Home Children on the site of the original location of the Middlemore Homes Distribution branch (Fairview Home), on the Bedford Highway, which operated from the mid 1890’s until 1930, at which time Middlemore stopped sending children to Canada

Marion Crawford at Marion from Belleisle Creek, New Brunswick works tirelessly helping descendants connect with their roots.

Sources: For this article I’ve drawn my information from the above-mentioned people was well as the book, “The Little Immigrants” by Kenneth Bagnell, loaned to me by Lizzy Bates. Thanks also to the following people for allowing me to interview them for this article and those who provided me with the wonderful pictures of their ancestors. Daniel (Chippy) MacInnis, Mary Hall, Margaret MacInnis, the late Ruth Reid, Woody Wilson, Rev. John A. C. Wilson, Rev. Neil McLean, Georgina Milley, Katie Bell Hall, Ernest MacMillan, Wallace Warren, Cliff Peck, Hugh MacLeod, Allan and Kaye MacLeod, George Kehoe and Lizzy Bates.

I especially want to thank my mom, Marie (Kennedy) Mullins, who is my constant source of inspiration and encouragement.  

(Elaine Sawlor is retired from teaching and researches Louisbourg area family histories. She lives in Sydney.)

© Louisbourg Heritage Society, 17 Holland Ave, Louisbourg, NS   
B1C 2K7,
ISSN  1183-5835 ISBN  1-896218-15-6, Editor, Bill O’Shea


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