Blair Athol, Galt (now Cambridge), Ontario, Canada

Opened in 1871, Blair Athol, at Galt (now Cambridge), Ontario, was the second of three homes in Ontario set up by Miss Annie Macpherson for receiving and distributing emigrant children from Britain. The other two were at Belleville (1870) and Knowlton (1872). The children brought over by Miss Macpherson came from her own Home of Industry in East London, and also from other agencies for homeless children such as Barnardo's.

Annie Macpherson. © Peter Higginbotham

Miss Macpherson's Home of Industry, Spitalfields. © Peter Higginbotham

Blair Athol was different from the Macpherson homes that followed it. Instead of being a purely residential establishment for the reception and distribution of newly arrivals, its ninety-nine acres of farmland were used to provide hands-on agricultural training to improve the children's prospects in their new country.

Miss Macpherson's normal practice was to bring children to Canada in parties of 150, with fifty going to each of her three homes. In 1877, however, she decided to use Blair Athol for the whole of each party. The Knowlton home was then handed over to her sister, Louisa Birt, for use with children from the Liverpool Sheltering Home, while the Marchmont home at Belleville was passed to Ellen Bilbrough who dealt mainly with various agencies in Scotland, such as Quarriers', and with the Manchester and Salford Refuges.

In 1882, Blair Athol was sold off and the home was transferred to new premises at Stratford, Ontario.

Records

Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals.

  • Records for the homes run by Annie Macpherson were inherited by Barnardo's (see below). These include:
    • Home of Industry, Spitalfields: History books, register and emigrant register (1870-1924)
    • Annie Macpherson Home, Stratford, Ontario: Register and history books of children sent to Canada (1871-1915)
    • Marchmont Homes, Canada: History books and lists (1870-1914)
  • Barnardo's Family History Service deals with enquiries regarding records of individual children — various services are available costing from £15 upwards.
  • Making Connections — a service for those wishing to access their Barnardo's adoption records.
  • Barnardo's historical administrative records are now deposited with Liverpool University's Social Welfare Archives with stringent restrictions on their access.

Bibliography