The Golden Bridge – Child Migration from Scotland to Canada 1869-1939

The Exhibition

“We who labour here are tired of relieving misery from hand to mouth, and also heartsick of seeing hundreds of families pining for want of work, when over on the shores of Ontario the cry is heard ‘Come over and we will help you’. We are waiting to seek out the worthy not yet on the parish list, but who soon must be; we will see to their being properly started on the Canadian shores if you will give us the power to make a Golden Bridge across the Atlantic.”

In 1869 Annie McPherson wrote this in a pamphlet

The Migration of Children

  • Children were migrated to Canada between 1869 and 1939
  • Small numbers were migrated before and after these dates
  • 100,000 children were migrated to Canada from the United Kingdom
  • 10,000 of these came from Scotland
  • Quarrier’s homes migrated 7,000 children
  • 11% of today’s Canadian population are descended from home children [child migrants]

“We can but be deeply grateful that in parts of the East End four out of five children die before they reach their fifth year, because the other side of the picture among the living ones is so black, so awful, so crushing in its dreadful realties.”

Anne McPherson 1856

“In one house, perhaps two-score families herd together and perhaps not one of them is wholly out of reach of want. Everywhere there is pinching, narrow habit, scanty meals and an air of sluttishness and dirt … Only a robust soul, you would think, could grow up in such conditions without hurt.”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1878

Moving Songs

Don’t forget the orphan homes of Scotland,
Don’t forget the dear friends here;
Don’t forget that Jesus Christ your Saviour
Goes with thee to Canada.
And remember we’re still a-praying
That your life will be good and true,
And that you may find a blessing
In the land you’re going to.

Farewell Song sung by children at Quarrier’s homes for those leaving for Canada.

Take them away! Take them away!
Out of the gutter, the ooze and slime
Where the little vermin paddle and crawl
Till they grow and ripen into crime.

Take them away! Take them away!
The boys from the gallows, the girls from worse:
They’ll prove a blessing to other lands
Here, if they linger, they’ll prove a curse.

Take them away! Take them away!
To con the lesson they never knew
And never can learn mid the reek and rot
Of the sweltering garbage where they grew.

Take them away! Take them away!
The bountiful earth if wide and free.
The new shall repair the wrongs of the Old
God be with them over the sea!

Departure of the Innocents by Horsley 1887